A New Zealand-based company is now close to making the jetpack only seen in science fiction movies a reality as the Civil Aviation Authority in the country has approved test flights.
The Martin Aircraft Company based in Christchurch has secured permission from the government to test its prototype jetpack with a pilot. The company said the jetpack can fly as high as 1 kilometre with a travel speed of 112 kilometres per hour.
Martin Aircraft has initially tested the jetpack using a remote control. The company aims to have the jetpack available for commercial flight sometime in 2014 if manned flight testing would produce favourable results.
The jetpack is intended for use in defence and emergency situations. It could prove to be useful to emergency response teams in a search-and-rescue operation. While the jetpack is mainly for these purposes, it can also be a recreational vehicle for those who want to experience the thrill of riding a long-time favourite of futuristic cinema and science fiction books.
The company has revealed that it has received more than 10,000 inquiries about buying the jetpack. Martin Aircraft is planning to sell the coveted jetpack for $150,000.
The company's chief executive, Peter Coker, said a simpler jetpack model will be made for the public which was expected to be ready for the market by 2015. Mr. Coker said the New Zealand government certification was an important milestone to the jetpack's development.
Mr. Coker said manned test flights with the jetpack would allow the company to turn the dream into a reality. The jetpack prototype can move on to the next stage of development after testing. The jetpack was borne out of inventor Glenn Martin's idea. Thirty years ago, Mr. Martin worked on his jetpack idea in a garage in Christchurch.
The inventor was inspired by watching popular childhood television shows like Lost in Space and the Thunderbirds. He went to work on his idea in the early 1980s and envisioned a jetpack fit for daily use of the average person with no special training required.
The jetpack contains a couple of cylinders with propulsion fans attached to a carbon-fibre frame. With manned flight testing now allowed, the pilot can strap himself back into the frame and use the two joysticks to control the wingless jetpack.