The Martin Jetpack, was once thought of as the stuff of science fiction and in November 2010 was rated by TIME magazine as “the most anticipated invention of the year” and listed in the world’s top 50 inventions for 2010.
Inventor Glenn Martin and his company Martin Aircraft spent over 30 years developing the Jetpack. The jetpack is not a new idea – even the fictional Buck Rogers had one! – but Mr Martin was the first person in the world to develop a practical model of the device that can fly for half an hour on a full tank (approximately 19 litres) with an altitude of up to 2,400 m and a range of over 50 km. This is in stark contrast to earlier models such as the famous 1961 US Bell Rocket Belt, which could only fly for 26 seconds on a full tank of fuel with a maximum range of 260 m.
The chief executive of the Martin Aircraft Company, Richard Lauder, says it is fantastic to be recognised in the international community and to be listed alongside other well known inventions, such as iPads, Google's driverless car and the first synthetic cell.
TIME magazine writer Bill Saporito describes the Martin Jetpack as “two enormous leaf blowers” welded together with a harness, although it may be the world’s first practical jetpack.
Minister of Research, Science and Technology Wayne Mapp says the Martin Jetpack has captured the imagination and puts New Zealand innovation in the international spotlight.
“Glenn’s breakthrough approach to the use of ultra-high efficient fans and vector control means that he has solved a problem that has beaten everyone else.
“There is no doubt that there will be a wide range of practical applications for the technology he has developed,” says Dr Mapp.
Extensive field tests on the prototypes were undertaken in 2011. In May the Martin Jetpack successfully completed a remotely controlled unmanned test flight to 1,500 m above sea level and also carried out a successful test of its ballistic parachute. Martin Aircraft had planned to begin commercial production of the jetpack by the end of 2012. There were approximately 7,000 inquiries to the company during 2010 with the queue of waiting customers growing, with strong interest from military and civil defence clients who could see uses for the device in border patrol, search and rescue and rapid response. In 2015 Dubai's civil defence force expressed interest in buying 20 jetpacks.
The jetpacks were initially expected to sell for about US$100,000 (NZ$134,000) each.
Unfortunately the vision of single-person aircraft did not eventuate, Glenn Martin resigned from the company in June 2015 and in 2019 the company closed it's doors – never having made any commercial sales. In 2021 seven prototype Martin Jetpacks were put up for sale by the company's liquidators.
Use TIME magazine’s visual history of the Jetpack to assist student to explore the future of machines like the jetpack.