Martin Jetpacks may soon fight high-rise fires, ditch microlight tag
Christchurch-made Martin Jetpacks could soon save people from burning skyscrapers in China and Dubai if global sales take off.
The company already has an agreement with Dubai Civil Defence for the sale of up to 20 Jetpacks and two training simulators. It is hoping to win more customers who see the Jetpack's potential for use in urban emergencies such as fighting fires in high-rise buildings.
In the past year it has also signed agreements with three Chinese companies for 100 Jetpacks and 20 simulators.
Martin Jetpack has stopped calling its machines microlights to help it reach a wider market.
The company's latest half-year report to the end of December, which reported a loss of $4.6 million, said Jetpack sales would be extremely limited without the re-definition.
Chief executive Peter Coker said the company originally wanted to class the Jetpack as a microlight to encourage sales to users who could operate the aircraft with minimal training.
However, they had since realised the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and regulators would not allow general commercial use of microlights.
As a result the company decided to define its product as experimental, restricted and certified.
It was continuing to work with CAA to create a unique "jetpack" category, and expected to sell its first line of Jetpacks to customers by the end of this year.
The re-classification would only apply to manned Jetpack aircraft, although an unmanned product was being designed to the same standard to give it a competitive advantage over other drones, Coker said.
CAA was also helping the company get the best type of commercial certification with the United States' Federal Aviation Administration and other regulators.
The company, now majority-owned by Chinese investor KuangChi Science and listed on the Australian stock exchange, was working on its next line of experimental aircraft and a parachute system.
In the past year it had signed agreements with three Chinese companies for 100 Jetpacks and 20 simulators.
Training of pilots would be done under agreements whereby companies commit to helping Martin Jetpack and KuangChi Science develop and sell product in China.
The agreements were signed in China in December at the first public flight demonstration of the P12 Martin Jetpack in Shenzhen.
Martin Jetpack hoped to benefit from China recently opening up its previously off-limits airspace to civilian operators.
In a development announced at the half year result, KuangChi Science has put just over A$23m more into the company, as it agreed to do last year when it became a shareholder.
In line with agreements at that time, KuangChi Science has increased its share of Martin Jetpack from 22.7 per cent at the end of its last financial year to just over 52 per cent.
In another agreed move, KuangChi Science has sold its 51 per cent share in a joint venture subsidiary, Hong Kong Martin Aircraft, in return for a bigger stake in the main company.
In the year to June 30, 2015, Martin Jetpack reported an annual net loss to $5.2m. Its net loss for that year compared to a $922,000 net loss in the three months to June 30, 2014.