Giant leap for Kiwi jetpack

LIFT-OFF: The Martin Jetpack is now in the final stages of development.
LIFT-OFF: The Martin Jetpack is now in the final stages of development.

A New Zealand-invented jetpack has reached 5000 feet, or 1.5km, above sea level, a major leap towards commercial production, its developers say.

Up until now Glenn Martin's experimental personal flying machine has only ever ground-hopped, but with a crash test dummy in the pilot's position and flown by remote control it flew to 5000ft, then down to about 2000ft before parachuting to safety on the Canterbury Plains a few days ago, TV One's Sunday programme reported.

Mr Martin has spent the past 30 years and $12 million in savings and venture capital on the project, and hopes the successful test will bring more investment and ultimately mass production.

The 115kg Martin Jetpack relies on two powerful "superfans". It has the ability to fly for half an hour or more, climb more than 1000ft per minute and to cruise at 100kmh.

Last year, the jetpack, which runs on ordinary petrol, was named in Time Magazine's 50 Best Inventions list.

However, when it was shown bouncing just off the ground at the Oshkosh Air Show three years ago it was ridiculed by industry professionals.

Mr Martin told Sunday that only left him more determined.

"This successful test brings the future another step closer," he said.

"We limited the jetpack to 800ft/min climb so the chase helicopters could keep up," Mr Martin said.

He said it was a major step towards commercial production of the world's first practical Jetpack and the Martin Aircraft Company aims to have first deliveries of both the manned and unmanned versions to key customers within the next 18 months.

Martin Aircraft chief executive Richard Lauder said the Christchurch-based company was now in an intensive testing period to refine technology and performance over extended and continuous hours of operation.

"In the past two years we've gone from unveiling a world leading invention to a company on the verge of international commercialisation of both the manned and unmanned versions of the jetpack."

Martin Aircraft had received substantial interest from governments, military and emergency services around the world, along with many in the general aviation sector who are interested in being one of the first to own a jetpack, Mr Lauder said.