Ever since Sean Connery donned a jetpack and propelled himself skywards in the 1965 Bond movie Thunderball, many have fantasised about following suit.
Soon it could become reality, thanks to a “motorbike in the sky” built by a New Zealand inventor and just granted a flying permit.
Glenn Martin’s jetpack – a carbon-fibre frame attached to a gas-powered, V-4 piston engine – can fly at an altitude of 1.5 km and at a top speed of 74 kph.
The Civil Aviation Authority permit means it can now undergo its first manned tests, expected to take place in the next few months.
Mr Martin came up with the first prototype while “tinkering in his garage”, according to the New Zealand Herald. The chief executive of Martin Aircraft, Peter Coker, said this week that the latest version was capable of a half-hour flight, with a cruising speed of about 56kph.
A simplified version could be on the market by 2015, and Mr Coker said that several governments – keen to explore its military capabilities as well as its potential use in search and rescue operations – had expressed interest. So has a company which tests floodlights in stadiums.
The other potential market, he told the Herald, is 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.”
Inspired by childhood TV shows such as Thunderbirds and Lost in Space, Mr Martin set out to create a jetpack suitable for everyday use by people with no pilot training. He spent 30 years developing the machine in his garage in Christchurch.
The pilot straps himself into the frame and controls the jetpack with two joysticks. A pair of cylinders containing propulsion fans provide the lift.