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Jetpacks Could Go On Sale Next Year For High Fliers

2:54 PM, Sep 19, 2013   |    comments
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It's "The Jetsons" come to life, Buzz Lightyear flying off the big screen into the real world.

A New Zealand company has gotten approval for manned test flights for its latest jetpack prototype, and is trying to develop a version to sell to the public.

The Martin Aircraft Co. of Christchurch said that prototype 12 of its Martin Jetpack can climb above a mile and reach speeds of 46 miles per hour.

The company expects to have its first commercial jetpack on the market next year with a price tag of about $150,000.

Here's how test pilot James Bowker describes a ride: "Mixture of scary and just awesome but when you're actually in it, it's all behind you and you just get lifted off the ground."

The inventor, Glenn Martin, has been working on perfecting his concept for 30 years, inspired by "The Jetsons" and other shows, as well as the U.S. space program.

"It's quite nice to look back and see how far it's come," he said.

Martin Aircraft plans to sell it first to emergency responders and specialists in defense and civil defense while it continues to develop a lighter recreational version.

It will be a pricey way to escape traffic -- or villains, like James Bond did in the 1965 movie 'Thunderball' -- but the company says potential customers have been in touch.

"We have over 10,000 people who have actually enquired as to where they might be able to purchase these in the future," Martin Aircraft's CEO, Peter Coker, said.

The name jetpack is really a misnomer because the lift is provided by ducted fans, not jet engines.

The company, which received a permit for the manned test flights from the Civil Authority of New Zealand two months ago, is not releasing video of those flights yet.

In 2008, Martin demonstrated an earlier version of the jetpack to cheers at an experimental aviation show in Oshkosh, Wisc.

Existing footage of manned flights shows the device hovering about one yard off the ground or being flown unmanned by remote control.

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