Matthew Theunissen

Matthew Theunissen is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

'Motorbike in the sky' taking off

Christchurch firm's latest jetpack prototype approved for manned flight.

A jetpack invented by a Kiwi bloke tinkering in his garage now has Civil Aviation Authority approval for a manned flight and the interest of governments and companies around the world.

Christchurch-based Martin Aircraft Company yesterday revealed details of its latest P12 jetpack prototype, which it says has taken a "quantum leap" in performance over the previous model.

Chief executive Peter Coker said the company had made huge progress in recent months and the jetpack was now capable of a 30-minute flight traversing 30km.

"Changing the position of the jetpack's ducts has resulted in a quantum leap in performance over the previous prototype, especially in terms of the aircraft's manoeuvrability," Mr Coker said.

The jetpack is designed for an altitude of 1.5km and has a cruise speed of around 56km/h and a top speed of 74km/h.

Mr Coker said several governments had expressed interest in the aircraft, particularly for its potential emergency service and search and rescue applications, but also for its military capabilities.

"One of those [governments] is actually interested in it for rapid insertion of individuals into certain areas.

"There is also an ability for you to have a number of these in the air, one of which is manned and others unmanned, in order to do things like resupply and extraction."

There had also been interest from a company responsible for testing floodlights in stadiums which saw the potential the jetpack had to make its job easier.

And, of course, there was copious interest from thrill-seekers. "It's essentially a motorbike in the sky, so I imagine anyone who has a snowmobile or a jetski, this is going to be something they're going to want in their garage," Mr Coker said.

He was adamant the jetpack was safe, with an emergency parachute and a roll cage designed to protect the pilot.

They don't come cheap, with a price tag of US$150,000 ($186,611) to US$175,000 for the commercial sector and about US$250,000 for the government sector, which was likely to require far more technology built into the aircraft.

However, Mr Coker expects the price to drop once a production line starts.

The Martin Jetpack, which was named one of Time magazine's top 50 inventions for 2010, was the result of years of work by Christchurch inventor Glenn Martin in his garage.

It is expected to undergo manned tests in the next few months.

P12 jetpack prototype

* It is now capable of a 30-minute flight traversing 30km.

* The jetpack is designed for an altitude of 1.5km and has a cruise speed of around 56km/h and a maximum speed of 74km/h.

* It has a price tag of US$150,000 ($186,611) to US$175,000 for the commercial sector and about US$250,000 for the government sector.

* It is expected to undergo manned tests in the next few months.

- APNZ

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