TECH
08/14/2013 04:31 pm ET | Updated Aug 15, 2013

Martin Jetpack Approved For Manned Test Flights In New Zealand, May Hit The Market In 2014

Through the decades, there have been various attempts to create workable jetpacks, but no one had managed to come up with a commercially viable device that could stay in the air for more than a few seconds. That is, until now.

According to reports this week, the human race is now one step closer to fulfilling its jetpack dream thanks to the work of Martin Aircraft Company, the New Zealand-based organization behind the Martin Jetpack, considered to be the world's first commercial device of its kind.

martin jetpack

First public flight of the Martin Jetpack in 2008. (Credit: Wiki Commons)

In 2011, the Martin Jetpack made history when it successfully carried a weighted dummy -- aptly named "Jetson" -- 5,000 feet above sea level. According to a CNET report at the time, the device clinched a record for flight duration after it managed to stay aloft for more than seven minutes.

This week, Martin Aircraft Company announced that it had reached yet another important milestone in the development of the machine. As the Agence France-Presse reports, the Martin Jetpack has been given the green light by New Zealand's Civil Aviation Authority to start conducting manned test flights.

Chief executive Peter Coker said the new license is a big step forward for the device, adding that the machine may be on the market as soon as next year.

"For us it's a very important step because it moves it out of what I call a dream into something which I believe we're now in a position to commercialize and take forward very quickly," Coker told AFP.

The first step will be to roll out a specialized version of the device designed for the military and first responders in 2014, Coker said; a recreational version for the general public is scheduled for a 2015 release. According to the company's website, the Martin Jetpack is anticipated to have a price tag of at least $100,000 and will be able to carry a person in the air for about 30 minutes.

Though the term "jetpack" may be a bit of a misnomer -- PopSci noted in 2011 that the device "relies on two huge ducted fans…to provide lift," rather than being propelled by jets of gases or liquid -- people are already getting enormously excited about acting out their sci-fi fantasies.

The future has "finally arrive[d]," wrote Engadget's Daniel Cooper this week about the latest development in the Martin Jetpack success story.

The brainchild of inventor Glenn Martin, the device -- named one of Time's 50 Best Inventions in 2010 -- is not the first personal flight machine to capture the world's attention.

Back in the 1950s, for example, a jetpack was created by engineer Wendell Moore for Bell Aerosystems. According to Techgraffiti.com, the "Bell Rocket Belt" was capable of lifting a person 30 feet into the air. It was, however, reportedly only able to stay aloft for a maximum duration of 20 seconds.

More recently, companies Powerhouse Productions, Jet Pack International, and Tecnologia Aeroespacial Mexicana (TAM) have successfully created workable jetpacks of their own.

While Powerhouse Productions' "Rocketbelt," which can stay in the air for 30 seconds, is currently only used in demonstrations and stunt shows, you can actually buy TAM's custom-built "Rocket Belt" (30 seconds flight duration) and Jet Pack International's "Go Fast Jet Pack" (33 seconds flight duration). In 2011, Geek.com reported that the TAM device could be snagged for around $250,000, while the "Go Fast Jet Pack" was on sale for about $155,000.

Of course, before you get too excited, be warned that whizzing around with a jetpack may not be the best idea ever. If the grumbling provoked by Leonardo DiCaprio and his water jetpack, is any indication, we have a long way to go before the world at large will be ready for such a potentially hazardous -- and vastly different -- mode of transportation.

For more on this, read Nick Hurwitch and Phil Hornshaw's post on the "5 Reasons the Future Is Better Without Jetpacks or Flying Cars" -- and then tell us what you think of a jetpack-ed future in the comments below.

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