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Pictured: The £50,000 jetpack that lets you become a real-life James Bond

Posted on 12:38 PM by Sameer Shah

It looks more like a couple of oversized soup cans turned into a backpack than a sexy James Bond flying machine.

But this is the world’s first practical one-man flying jet pack, its inventor claimed when he unveiled it yesterday.

Forty-three years after 007 leaped over a wall with his Bellrocket belt in Thunderball, the Martin Jet Pack made its public debut at AirVenture, the world’s biggest air show.

Scroll to the bottom of this article to see video of the jetpack in action



It didn’t travel very far (50ft), very high (just 6ft), or for very long (45seconds), but that wasn’t the object of the exercise, said inventor Glenn Martin.

'I wanted to prove that the technology works,' said Mr Martin.

‘Six feet or 600ft, it makes no difference once you get airborne.’

The huge crowd of aircraft fans at Oshkosh, near Milwaukee, Wisconsin, seemed to agree as the flight was celebrated with wild whoops and cheers.

Mr Martin, a 48-year-old father of two from Christchurch, New Zealand, has spent 27 years perfecting his jet pack, which he hopes to start selling for £50,000 each next year.


He was just five years old when he first dreamed of having a magic flying belt, he said.

It was a dream shared by comic book writers who in 1928 gave space man Buck Rogers a ‘jumping belt’ enabling him to leap over cities.

Other comic heroes followed, and in real life there have been various designs since then, including a craft nicknamed the flying bedstead designed for the Pentagon in 1954.

Bond’s belt was the most successful – but it could only keep the superspy aloft for 30 seconds before it ran out of fuel.

More fuel was impossible because the belt couldn’t handle the payload.
Jetpack

James Bond wore a jetpack in Thunderball, but they could soon be available commercially

Mr Martin said his revolutionary design can stay aloft for 30 minutes, a flyingtime that he believes will make it a best-seller.

After years of calculations and building prototypes since his university days, he said he achieved his breakthrough 11 years ago in his garage workshop by going low-tech.

His calculations showed his design would work but only carrying someone weighing less than 9 stone.

Seven weeks after the birth of their second child, his wife, Vanessa, was recruited as his lightweight test pilot.

‘I took some precautions,’ Mr Martin grinned. ‘I tied the thing to a pole in the garage so Vanessa wouldn’t go flying through the roof.’

Mrs Martin said: ‘Everything went well, and I was hooked immediately.’

Later Mr Martin also enlisted his son, Harrison, then 15, as another test pilot.Then he boosted the engine power to carry heavier people.

The Martin Jet Pack owes more to the hovercraft than the jet.

A motorbike engine running on regular petrol uses car fan belts to drive two fan propellers that spin horizontally inside the ‘soup cans.’

This ‘ducted fan’design is more efficient than the unshielded rotor of a helicopter.

A ducted fan has more and shorter blades than a regular propeller. Being shorter and inside the shroud, they spin faster giving greater lift.

The engine, fuel tank and the pilot are positioned between and below the lift-fans to lower the centre of gravity and prevent the machine turning upside down in flight and diving into the ground – jokingly called the lawn dart effect, after the garden game.

Two control levers protrude forwards beneath the pilot’s arms. The left one is a joystick controlling forward and backward movement and roll, or sideway stilt of the propellers, for left and right turns.

The right lever is the accelerator, the engine start and stop switch, and a button for the emergency parachute.

The ‘ballistic parachute’ is located behind the pilot’s head, on top of all the other machinery.

Like those used in some light planes, it is deployed rapidly by a small explosive charge and is designed to float the jet pack and pilot back to safety should things go wrong.

Mr Martin recently got backing from a group of venture capitalists so he quit his regular job as a biochemist to develop his machine.

He said: ‘Within six months I’ll take it to 500ft, then the sky’s the limit.'

Mr Martin has designed his Jet Pack to meet U.S. Federal Aviation Authority rules for light aircraft.

He and his backers believe it will be ideal for commuters, ranchers with vast herds of cattle, firefighters tackling forest fires, other workers who need to cover large areas, and the military.

And, of course, it also has appeal as the ultimate boy's toy.

JET PACK FACT FILE

* Jet packs were first dreamed up by the comic book writers in 1928 when they gave spaceman Buck Rogers one enabling him to leap over cities.

* In 1949, Saturday morning cinema showed a serial, King of the Rocketmen, in which the hero flew with the help of an atomic rocket pack controlled by knobs and dials on his chest.

* The Pentagon backed tests of the Hiller Flying Platform in 1954. Nicknamed the flying bedstead, the U.S. Navy and Army were interested but it was abandoned after two years.
* In 1960 Bell Aerosystems invented their rocket belt that was made famous by 007 in 1965’s Thunderball. In 1970 the patent was sold to another company, Williams Research, who developed it into a larger version called the WASP. Its big disadvantage was that it was always too thirsty and could never carry enough fuel to give it more than a couple of minutes' flying time.
* In 1984 the rocket belt made a spectacular – but again short-lived – reappearance at the opening ceremony of the Los Angeles Olympics.
* Another version was unveiled by Jet Pack International in 2004. The company says it plans to sell a jet-turbine version to the public next year. No price or range have been revealed.
* The only truly successful one-man jet packs so far have been the nitrogen-squirting Manned Maneuvering Units used by NASA astronauts since 1984.

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