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Jetpack Gets Permit To Begin Test Flights
A jetpack prototype developed in New Zealand can undergo manned test flights after aviation authorities gave its developers a flying permit.
The chief executive of Martin Aircraft said the certification was a significant milestone in the development of the jetpack, which the company hopes to start selling 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 commercialise and take forward very quickly," Peter Coker said.
Inventor Glenn Martin began working on the jetpack in his Christchurch garage more than 30 years ago, inspired by childhood television shows such as Thunderbirds and Lost in Space.
He aimed to create a jetpack suitable for everyday use by ordinary people with no specialist pilot training.
His jetpack consists of a pair of cylinders containing propulsion fans attached to a free-standing carbon-fibre frame.
The pilot backs into the frame, straps himself in and controls the wingless jetpack with two joysticks.
The jetpack comes with a rocket-propelled parachute if anything goes wrong.
The company has been fine-tuning the prototype to turn it into an aircraft that is safe and easy to use.
The latest prototype, the P12, incorporated huge design improvements over earlier versions.
"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 company is preparing a specialised version of the jetpack designed for the military and first-responder emergency crews such as firefighters.
That should be ready for delivery by mid-2014, it says.
A simpler model aimed at the general public is expected to be on the market in 2015.
The price of your own personal flying machine is estimated at $150,000-250,000 (£97,000 to £160,000), although Mr Coker said the cost was likely to come down over time.
The experimental flight permit issued by the New Zealand Civil Aviation allows someone to pilot the aircraft.
But the test flights are subject to strict safety requirements.
They are not allowed any higher than 20ft (six metres) above the ground and are limited to areas over uninhabited land.