A New Zealand man has made millions of childhood dreams come true, after taking a massive leap in the world of personalised jetpacks.
Glenn Martin started working on the Martin Jetpack, which he calls “the world’s first practical jetpack,” 34 years ago in his back shed in Dunedin, New Zealand. On Tuesday, he listed his company Martin Aircrafts on the Australian Stock Exchange.
Martin has spent his life dedicated to the cause of creating a machine that replicated the one seen in science fiction as early as the 1920s — perhaps best remembered as the device that saved James Bond in Thunderball.
The first Martin Jetpack was launched in 2008 at the Experimental Aircraft Association AirVenture show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. It wasn’t a rousing success. Glenn’s son Harrison hovered at only three feet above ground level before returning to Earth.
Although the crowd seemed impressed, American media slammed the device. In a 2011 interview with New Zealand current affairs show Sunday, Glenn spoke of how the negative reaction affected him.
“You spend 28 years of your life developing something and I made no claims about it … I just wanted to go to Oshkosh and introduce it to the aviation world,” Glenn told Sunday. “And then all these people came in and started getting negative about it and it is very hurtful. [But] it just makes you more determined.”
On Tuesday at 11 a.m. AEDT, that determination paid off. With newly-appointed CEO Peter Coker and an investment agreement with Hong Kong company KuangChi Science, Martin Aircraft listed on the Australian Stock Exchange.
The Initial Public Offering (IPO raised A$27 million ahead of the listing at an offer price of A$0.40 per share, with KuangChi Science purchasing A$21 million of the shares. Martin Aircraft said this will allow the company to “focus 100% on the commercialisation of the jetpack.”
The Martin Jetpack has come in leaps and bounds since the first showing in 2008. Based on current testing, it can now fly for more than 30 minutes at a speed of 74km/h and an altitude up to 1,000 metres (3,000 ft.) with or without a pilot strapped into it.
Despite the name, it’s not technically a jetpack, Martin says — but rather a “helicopter backpack.” The device is lifted by two carbon fiber fans rather than jets propelled directly by gas. This style of craft can take off and land vertically due to its small dimensions, allowing it to operate in spaces where a traditional helicopters could not access.
Martin Aircraft engineers created an engine to turn the craft’s rotors with a low weight to power ratio, allowing for longer flight time and height possibilities. Without the weight of fuel, time in the air can also extend –- with a flying time of 30 minutes. Compare that to the Bell Rocket Belt pack, which at its peak design in the 1990s, had a top flying time of 30 seconds.
“This is a bit like when the helicopter first came in, and everyone said it would never work, that it only flew for 10 minutes, that it was disastrous in some respects,” Coker told the Guardian. “But now you look at the helicopter around the world, and that’s changed something -– we’re going to do exactly the same.”
The Martin Jetpack will be initially targeted at emergency services with first deliveries in the second half of 2016, before becoming publicly available in 2017. It is expected to retail at more than A$250,000 and the latest prototype, P12, gained Civil Aviation Authority certification for manned flight in New Zealand in August 2013.
“Commercial Jetpacks are no longer the domain of science fiction. The dream of Glenn Martin to create a commercial Jetpack is about to be realised,” Coker said in a statement following the IPO.
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