The James Bond film Thunderball kick started the passion for one man to start developing a functional rocket pack and after many years and many false starts, a New Zealander is set to launch his product on the market.
But, the history of the jetpack goes back a long way to when Jules Verne mentioned them in his work. In the late 1950's, the U.S. military experimented with personal flying devices that would transport soldiers to remote locations. Unsurprisingly, these didn't take off and nor did the nitrogen-based jet packs of the late 50's and 60's, which had a short thrust time, but things are never developed quickly and now NASA is using jetpacks to rescue astronauts in space.
But, in 2008, Glen Martin launched "The world's first practical jetpack" at the Experimental Aircraft Association AirVenture show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Unfortunately, because it only hovered one meter off the ground, it wasn't a great success and the media was not impressed. But not deterred, Glen appointed a new CEO to Martin Aircraft and managed to acquire funding from a Hong Kong company and is now listed on the Australian stock exchange.
The name however, is a bit of marketing nomenclature to gain media traction, as in reality is uses two carbon fiber fans propelled by gas to move it around rather than the more common and very much more flammable jets. Thanks to major engineering advances, the "jetpack" can now fly for more than 30 minutes at a speed of 74km/h and an altitude up to 1,000 meters (3,000 feet) with or without a pilot strapped into it.
Having been designed to operate in small spaces where traditional helicopters can't operator and with a payload limit of 120Kg, Martin Aircraft is pitching the Jetpack as a first responder in areas where helicopters can't get to and because it can also be controlled remotely, it can be used for delivering heavier payloads than quadcopters which can carry just a few kilograms.
The slightly scary thing is that they're planning these devices for personal use. Judging by some of the drivers on the streets, it may be a dystopian nightmare to have these devices flying around the skies. But with recent talk about driverless cars, it's possible that by using the Internet of Things, one of these devices could be self-flying and could be booked online to arrive at your home and deliver you to your destination at a time when you need it. There wouldn't be any waiting in public transportation nor would you have to learn how to fly the machine and when you're ready to leave, again you'd simply pre-book it for another journey.
Maybe in time, we won't actually own our own vehicles, but actually lease them purely for the journey that we want to take, such as with electric bikes, which will become more affordable as driverless cars come into being. For example, if you book a car to take you somewhere, it will give you the option of sharing your journey for a cheaper price than going on your own. By booking online, the system will determine the most efficient route based on where you're going and who else wants to go in your direction and automatically deduct the cost from your credit card and even for long journeys, you'll be able to pre-book the entire journey using multiple transport methods across the globe.
Obviously, this won't happen tomorrow, but maybe in 20 to 30 years as our cities get more congested, these radical solutions will come to fruition.