One of humanity’s oldest and most primal urges is to learn what it’s like to fly. Tales of humans and gods soaring through the sky litter mythology. Throughout history some of humanities greatest engineers sketched out ideas in an attempt to make their dreams a reality. And finally, with the invention of the airplane, they succeeded. But flying across the country in a cramped coach seat isn’t exactly what our ancestors had in mind. They want to feel the wind on their faces, to feel the freedom of nothing but air all around them. Which is why even after the invention of the airplane another idea maintained its grip on the imaginations of writers and dreamers: The personal jetpack.
Jetpacks are cool. Just ask James Bond, Tony Stark, or any old Mandalorian. There is no concept more badass then strapping rocket fuel to your back and breaking the law of gravity. But even though 1960’s B-movies promised it was just a matter of time before we all had our own personal jetpack, they’ve proven to be an elusive technology to mass-produce. In fact, it might surprise you to know that the first jetpack was invented as far back as 1919 by a Russian inventor named Aleksandr Fyodorovich Andreyev. He was granted a patent for his invention which used an oxygen and methane mixture as fuel. However, there is no evidence Andreyev built his invention. The idea of jet propulsion would spend the next century being toyed with and then put away again with each new iteration trying a different chemical combination for fuel before again being ruled to be impractical.
Which brings us to today. In 2016, The Martin Aircraft Company debuted its P12 model which operated on regular automotive gas for up to 28 minutes and had a ceiling of 2,500 feet. But the company hit financial trouble failing to file financial disclosure statements in 2017 and cutting their staff of over 100 down to single digits. Then there is Jetman Dubai which has produced a fixed-wing flyer and launched several impressive demonstrations but does not allow for vertical take-off and has not announced any plans to bring their product to market as of yet. Finally, there is the JB11 from JetPack Aviation. This is the world’s only true jetpack, using diesel fuel it can reach a top speed of 120 mph and an operating ceiling of 15,000 feet for a maximum flight time of ten minutes. Their CEO says the company is working on an electric model, with a price point north of two hundred thousand dollars.
So yes, personal jetpacks are a thing. And if you have a sizable bank account you can own and operate one for yourself. But the limits on flight time and affordability means that the dream of a personal jetpack for every home is still a long way off. Still, it doesn’t mean human beings aren’t strapping rocket fuel to their backs and recklessly launching themselves into the sky. Take solace in that. Because despite the limitations we can still say. Personal Jetpacks, We Can Do That Now.