A prototype jet pack developed in New Zealand has been approved for manned test flights. (Courtesy: RTV/TVNZ/CBS)
A New Zealand company trying to develop a commercially-available jetpack said their long-held ambition has come a step closer after their latest prototype was given Civil Aviation approval for manned test flights.
The Martin Aircraft Company, based in Christchurch, said the permit was granted two months ago and will conduct manned-flight testing of prototype 12 of the Martin Jetpack.
The company is not releasing video of its manned-test flights yet but has shown off the prototype. Back in 2008, an earlier prototype caused a stir when footage emerged, although the jetpack could only reach around 1m off the ground.
The new prototype can climb above a mile, and reaches speeds of 46mph.
Existing footage of manned flights shows the device around one yard off the ground or being flown unmanned by remote control.
"Mixture of scary and just awesome but when you're actually in it it's all behind you and you just get lifted off the ground," said test pilot James Bowker when asked to describe the feeling of flying.
The company aims to sell a jetpack to first responders and specialist commercial users in defense and civil defense while it continues to develop a lighter recreational version.
"We have over 10,000 people who have actually enquired as to where they might be able to purchase these in the future," said Martin Aircraft Company CEO Peter Coker.
Bowker said he is seldom believed when he tells people he is a jetpack test pilot.
"Umm, normally along the lines of bull (bleep) haha," Bowker said.
For the inventor, Glenn Martin, it has been a 30-year labor of love to perfect his concept.
"This is prototype 9... All the previous prototypes I just basically chopped up with an axe and took to the tip," said Martin.
With a price tag of around $150,000, the company says they expect to have their first commercial jetpack on the market for sale next year.