Marine

Experimental Jet Blade personal watercraft features tilting front suspension

Experimental Jet Blade persona...
Unpainted Jet Blade prototype prepared for testing
Unpainted Jet Blade prototype prepared for testing
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The Jet Blade's 650cc engine, sourced from the Wetbike, sits on the rear ski and produces 50 hp
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The Jet Blade's 650cc engine, sourced from the Wetbike, sits on the rear ski and produces 50 hp
The Jet Blade's gauges and kill switch
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The Jet Blade's gauges and kill switch
The Jet Blade's initial floatation tests
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The Jet Blade's initial floatation tests
The Jet Blade's floatation tests
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The Jet Blade's floatation tests
Building the Jet Blade's inner frame
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Building the Jet Blade's inner frame
Building the Jet Blade's inner frame
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Building the Jet Blade's inner frame
The Jet Blade features a three-ski design
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The Jet Blade features a three-ski design
Jet Blade painted prototype side view
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Jet Blade painted prototype side view
Jet Blade: CAD render of side view
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Jet Blade: CAD render of side view
Jet Blade: CAD render
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Jet Blade: CAD render
Jet Blade takes to the water
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Jet Blade takes to the water
Unpainted Jet Blade prototype prepared for testing
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Unpainted Jet Blade prototype prepared for testing
Jet Blade prototype in water testing
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Jet Blade prototype in water testing
Jet Blade rises out of the water under power
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Jet Blade rises out of the water under power
One of the Jet Blade's skis
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One of the Jet Blade's skis
The Jet Blade takes to the water
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The Jet Blade takes to the water
Jet Blade: painted prototype - front view
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Jet Blade: painted prototype - front view
Jet Blade: painted prototype - front view tilted
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Jet Blade: painted prototype - front view tilted
A closer view of the Jet Blade's tilting front suspension
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A closer view of the Jet Blade's tilting front suspension
The Jet Blade's fuel filler
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The Jet Blade's fuel filler
Welding the Jet Blade frame
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Welding the Jet Blade frame
Jet Blade: left suspension struts
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Jet Blade: left suspension struts
Jet Blade: CAD render
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Jet Blade: CAD render
The Jet Blade's tilting front suspension system
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The Jet Blade's tilting front suspension system
The Jet Blade's tilting front suspension system CAD design
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The Jet Blade's tilting front suspension system CAD design
Jet Blade: painted prototype - rear view
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Jet Blade: painted prototype - rear view
Jet Blade: painted prototype - under the seat
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Jet Blade: painted prototype - under the seat
Jet Blade: painted prototype - seat
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Jet Blade: painted prototype - seat
Jet Blade: painted prototype - front 3/4 view
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Jet Blade: painted prototype - front 3/4 view
Jet Blade: painted prototype - rear 3/4 view
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Jet Blade: painted prototype - rear 3/4 view
Building the Jet Blade's inner frame
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Building the Jet Blade's inner frame
The Jet Blade's unpainted hull
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The Jet Blade's unpainted hull
Jet Blade: painted prototype - front 3/4 view
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Jet Blade: painted prototype - front 3/4 view

A team from Calvin College, Michigan, is trying to put the "ski" back in "jet ski" with a unique kind of personal watercraft (PWC) that features three skis, a tilting front suspension system and a 650cc engine. Inspired by the dual-ski Wetbike of the 1970s and 80s, and perhaps a little by the bizarre Watercross racing movement, the Jet Blade team has completed prototyping and preliminary water testing.

Eight years and one day ago, we wrote about a bunch of maniacs who take their snowmobiles, waterproof them a bit, then go out and race them on the water. Watercross, they called it, and it generally involved the two skis flopping around uselessly as the powerful snowmobile engine tended to hoist them straight out of the water.

Jet Blade: painted prototype - front view tilted
Jet Blade: painted prototype - front view tilted

Now, a senior design team from Calvin College is working on a prototype PWC that brings skis back into the game. The Jet Blade is a slightly odd-looking machine that rides on three skis – two steered skis at the front that use an active tilting suspension system, and one at the rear, upon which sits a 650cc, 50 hp (37 kW) engine.

As the rider climbs onto the floating Jet Blade, the skis are underwater and there’s very little control available. As you get moving, the skis plane upwards and break through the surface until the vehicle is completely riding on top of the water.

Jet Blade prototype in water testing
Jet Blade prototype in water testing

The front skis then offer a fairly agile steering input, while the suspension provides a smooth ride over bumpy water. Mind you, it’s not a wave-jumper. The team’s design report states the Jet Blade is "designed for use on small inland lakes where waves should not exceed 1-2 ft (30 - 60 cm) in amplitude."

Tilting the front skis lets both stay on the surface of the water to dig in and steer the thing, and makes it not unlike a Piaggio MP3 for the water.

Jet Blade: CAD render of side view
Jet Blade: CAD render of side view

The Jet Blade’s engine has been sourced from the Wetbike, a twin-ski water-motorcycle last produced in 1992. The Wetbike’s single front ski allowed for some pretty impressive handling, but its single-track design made it quite a handful to ride. Presumably a more stable three-ski design will make lower speed handling easier and reduce the learning curve.

The Jet Blade team is currently searching for potential investors, and examining the option of going into manufacturing with a production version at a retail price of US$12,000.

Check out the prototype in action in the video below.

Source: Jet Blade team website

Calvin Engineering - Jet Blade Test 1

10 comments
Chris Hann
Amazing! They have re-invented the WetBike. Hello and welcome to 1978!
Martin Hone
The reason's why the original Suzuki WetBike died were : 1. too heavy, 2. too hard to ride, even for experienced motorcyclists. I also recall that it had an 800cc engine, but I could be wrong. This new version needs to be lighter (no mention of weight here ) and easier to ride. I can't see it making it.
Stephen N Russell
Bond rode one ion Spy Who Loved Me, 1977. Test em in Hawaii & FL
hvacdon
Yes it is amazing. If you wait long enough, someone will slightly change something, then it is re-introduced as "all new and innovative". This concept was first introduced to the public in the James Bond Movie: The Spy Who Loved Me in 1977. See link. https://www.mi6-hq.com/sections/q-branch/wetbike.php3 Can't wait for the next "not so new idea"
Douglas Bennett Rogers
My "lean-to-turn" trike comments are finally paying off!
AlexanderByron
In response to the article and some comments. - You would be hard pressed to ever find a Wetbike engine to produce 50hp and reading it here in the article is pandering to the ignorant. We have 4 of them and they all produce at the highest 45hp. - The wetbike was banned for irresponsible use and death by its owners. Bad PR was it's downfall. - They are heavy, it's essentially moving a 650cc engine in a fiberglass body. I have to push it in and out of water on a cart every use. - They aren't hard to ride, they're a skilled machine by itself and motorcycle skills do not translate into being able to ride a Wetbike. I ride both and the only similarity is the counter-steering concepts, that's it. - The wetbike was a good design, it has a dedicated following (wetbike.net). This new design seems to take away what a wetbike actually did. It carved into turns and it acted like a 2-stroke dirtbike when jumping 4ft waves. This one seems stable and boring. Attain the right to manufacture a modern Wetbike, it's a solid machine.
hobojoe
They have something there! Just a little more work!
Douglas Bennett Rogers
Great for getting around a small lake, as shown. Needs to be cheaper. Best if you can leave it in water.