Aircraft

How Jetpacks could shape the future of personal transport

Jetpack Aviation CEO David Mayman demonstrates the JP-10 Jetpack
Jetpack Aviation CEO David Mayman demonstrates the JP-10 Jetpack
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Jetpack Aviation CEO David Mayman demonstrates the JP-10 Jetpack
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Jetpack Aviation CEO David Mayman demonstrates the JP-10 Jetpack
Getting a tour of the JP-10 Jetpack
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Getting a tour of the JP-10 Jetpack
Jetpack Aviation CEO David Mayman guides the first "civilian" Jetpack pilot through liftoff
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Jetpack Aviation CEO David Mayman guides the first "civilian" Jetpack pilot through liftoff
Jetpack Aviation CEO David Mayman (right) and first "civilian" pilot Mischa Pollack
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Jetpack Aviation CEO David Mayman (right) and first "civilian" pilot Mischa Pollack
A rendering of Jetpack Aviation's VTOL concept
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A rendering of Jetpack Aviation's VTOL concept
A rendering of Jetpack Aviation's VTOL concept the company hopes will become a means of urban transport
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A rendering of Jetpack Aviation's VTOL concept the company hopes will become a means of urban transport

Earlier this month, we witnessed the first "civilian" flight of a real-life jetpack made by Jetpack Aviation. During our time at the test site in California, we also made a point of pulling aside company founder and CEO David Mayman to ask him where he sees this whole jetpack thing going, and his vision is much broader than you might expect. Mayman doesn't just see a future for jetpacks, he sees the future centered around jetpacks and other VTOL technology he's working on today.

As Mayman told us earlier this year, Jetpack Aviation is actually about much more than just jetpacks. He explained at length the company's plan to introduce a manned, multi-rotor Vertical Take-off and Landing (VTOL) vehicle. Often referred to as "flying cars," these are the type of vehicles that Uber hopes to ferry customers around in about a decade or so from now.

You can find all the details of Jetpack's VTOL project in our earlier coverage, but this month we pressed Mayman on his vision of the future and where the projects he's working on today might fit into the grand scheme of our lives tomorrow.

First up, ahead of the VTOL concept, is a battery-powered Jetpack dubbed JB-12 that, unlike the JB-10 turbine version we saw demonstrated, uses ducted fans for thrust instead. This could be the first product that Jetpack Aviation actually offers to regular consumers on the mass market.

"The fan's actually inside a shroud, which makes it safer," Mayman explains.

A rendering of Jetpack Aviation's VTOL concept
A rendering of Jetpack Aviation's VTOL concept

Current battery technology doesn't provide for very long fight times, but Mayman's team is banking on that tech to improve in just a few years.

"In five years time, the battery technology in terms of the storage density will be massively different from what it is now, I truly believe that," he tells us. "The great thing is there are people spending billions of dollars on that battery technology, we don't need to spend that money ourselves."

Mayman is also optimistic that the early part of the next decade will provide the technology for autonomous versions of personal transport like the VTOL concept to work safely around each other, creating a floating freeway system in the sky.

"You won't need air traffic control," he explains. "Because as far as we're concerned, this is going to leapfrog autonomous cars to give us autonomous vehicles in the sky."

Jetpack Aviation CEO David Mayman guides the first "civilian" Jetpack pilot through liftoff
Jetpack Aviation CEO David Mayman guides the first "civilian" Jetpack pilot through liftoff

Mayman reiterated what he told us earlier about the VTOL project, which is that his company is aiming to compete in the short-distance market, for commuters and others looking to make relatively short or regional trips. Other companies like Joby and Zee.Aero are working on concepts that could handle longer trips.

"There is no doubt that we will all be transported this way in the future," Mayman says confidently. "And nobody will need to have a pilot's license. It'll be fully autonomous and the machines will be fully self-separated. Whether that's in 10 years time or 20 years time, I don't know."

Mayman concedes that the successful deployment of autonomous flying vehicles, particularly across a landscape as vast and diverse as North America, is largely dependent upon factors beyond his control.

"The technology is going to be there a heck of a lot earlier than the regulations and the infrastructure. We need places to land and we need regulators that understand that this is coming down the pike, which they do from drones."

Interestingly, the jetpack that Mayman is wowing us with on the day we came to visit the small test pad isn't just about making a cool, if somewhat gimmicky, sci-fi transport trope a reality. It's really about providing a proof of concept he hopes will lead to an opportunity to build out another Jetsons-esque vision that could be much more practical and wide-reaching.

"[The JB-10] isdemonstrating that we have the engineering prowess and here are the otherthings we'd like to do with VTOL and here's the map."

A rendering of Jetpack Aviation's VTOL concept the company hopes will become a means of urban transport
A rendering of Jetpack Aviation's VTOL concept the company hopes will become a means of urban transport

For Mayman and Jetpack Aviation, the next stop on that map to afuture filled with flying cars should beJB-12, the battery-powered version of the personal Jetpack we saw in person.Mayman says that could be ready to fly later this year.

Thecompany is currently raising funds via an equity crowdfunding campaign tocomplete the JB-12 as well as the JB-11, which is a six-engine version of itsturbine-powered jetpack. For a US$20,000 stake, investors also get the chance totry out the JB-10 on a tethered flight of their own like the one we witnessed.

To helpget closer to Jetpack Aviation's ultimate vision, the current JB-10 model may also be made availablefor rentals or purchase through a network of dealers connected to thehelicopter industry in the United States and via other distributors around theworld.

Companypage: Jetpack Aviation

7 comments
LynnWood
Imagine the fun all the tweekers will have with these.
Nelson Hyde Chick
Imagine people running into one another in urban environments. This is and has always been a stupid idea, too bad it just can't die.
bobmeyerweb
The average person seems to have trouble walking down the sidewalk in a straight line. I can't imagine how many people will die or be severely injured falling out of the sky, running into power lines or trees, or each other. Epic fail.
wle
anything that has to hold itself up in the air is VERY energy wasting. regular planes are bad enough, the old tiny cessnas would get 20-30 mpg. anything bigger like a jet is way worse. helicopters are the worst, jetpacks too. it takes like 200 horsepower to just sit there going nowhere.
Stephen N Russell
Strap on jetback from carrying case in SUV or cruiser road motorbike & see the horizons ahead Or use from moored yacht near inlet or Jungle Island & for scouting river sites to have white water, etc & Id consider a jetpack like one does a motorcycle. Use in Day, VFR weather, Longer range?? Or add wings & become like Iron Man, even more awesome IF wearing full blown Iron Man suit.
guzmanchinky
All the naysayers, such pessimism! Kind of like when the first cars came out, we're all going to die! I love the idea of these, but the noise must be massive.
Bruce H. Anderson
At last, someone has mentioned "places to land." I would add "places to take of"f as well. Translation - helipads and propwash. While there may be daring pioneers with their individual units, Mayman is spot on about the need for this to be fully autonomous. There still exists the energy problem. No matter what kind of advances are made in battery technology, the energy has to come from somewhere, and anything that hovers is a huge energy hog. It is an interesting concept, but it hasn't been thought all the way through.
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