The team at Jetpack Aviation (JPA) has just completed test flights in which two pilots flew close enough together to playfully boop each other on the nose. Next step: the world's first jetpack race series, starting in 2019, and yes, the jetboards and jet suits of the world are invited to participate!
They say the first motorcycle race happened the day the second motorcycle was built – and that's not hard to believe. With jetpacks, the key players have had to be a lot more methodical. One major incident with the JPA JB-series jetpacks, or Franky Zapata's Flyboard Air, and not only would the world probably lose the key figures driving this personal flight revolution, but legislators might swoop in and ruin the fun for everyone.
So for the most part, everyone in this space has been doing their best to play it safe, or at least look like they are. Jetpack Aviation's David Mayman has even gone so far as to get himself certified by the FAA as the world's only registered jetpack instructor, allowing JPA to run a series of jetpack experience training events for the general public, and setting up a system through which jetpack owners can undergo some legitimate training before they strap these roaring machines to their backs and head off into the clouds.
We are, after all, talking about jet turbine powered devices, running untethered above the ground at speeds up to 200 mph (320 km/h) and altitudes theoretically as high as 18,000 feet – not that anyone has tested these limits yet. It's kinda cowboy territory at the moment.
But according to Mayman, it's high time the personal flight industry got a kick up the backside in the form of a race series. And to test the feasibility of the idea, JPA has spent the last 12 months running tests to see how multiple jetpacks behave in close proximity to one another.
Today, JPA released a video showing some such testing, and demonstrated that indeed, these devices don't appear to interfere with each other when pilots fly close together - assuming you're not sitting right on top of the other guy's head and scorching him with your exhausts. You can see the video at the bottom of this article, in which Mayman reaches out and gives fellow test pilot Boris Jarry a playful boop as the pair hover over a lake.
So the race series, it seems, is a goer. We asked Mayman what the format might look like, and he told us races would initially be held over water for safety's sake, with a plan to go over land within a couple of years.
The format will likely be similar to the Red Bull Air Race, emphasizing maneuverability as well as speed and requiring pilots to navigate around pylons and potentially some wide horizontal barriers that you'd need to fly over, then come back underneath.
Head-to-head racing is certainly the goal, but JPA is working with aviation authorities to make the events kosher, and Mayman says the series may initially need to run timed laps to demonstrate that the concept, and the aircraft themselves, are reasonably safe.
Teams will need at least three jetpacks – or similar devices – to run in the races. They'll need to bring in their own funding or sponsorship, and either buy or lease the equipment from JPA if they don't have their own gear. JPA in that case would provide pilot training and maintenance of the jetpacks.
Mayman has been in touch with other jet turbine VTOL personal flight developers, and says he hopes the racing series could "become a place where other companies can also demonstrate their contribution to the future of transportation."
As for the spectator experience, well … you'll probably want to bring ear plugs! The roar of multiple turbine jetpacks tearing through the sky will "sound like a group of fighter jets going past."
Once things are up and running, the sky's the limit for jetpack sport. Mayman says the team has experimented with aerial ball sports not unlike a real-life game of Quidditch. And, he tells us, the things are so stable flying in close proximity that there's probably going to have to be rules around physical contact, since you could literally zip up next to somebody and "give each other the elbow …"
As always, we'll keep an eye on how things develop. In the meanwhile, take a look at the latest testing video below.
Source: Jetpack Aviation
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