If Martin Aircraft has its way, first responders and a select number of other customers will have their own personal jetpacks before the end of next year, according to recent reports.
The New Zealand-based company told CNET on Tuesday that they are currently working on a prototype of the device, and hope to have it released commercially during the third quarter 2016. That would be followed “very quickly” by an unmanned air vehicle version, they added.
Those aspirations may seem far-fetched, but the firm explained that a new investment from a Chinese R&D company, KuangChi Science, makes it more feasible than ever before. KuangChi Science purchased a controlling stake in Martin Aircraft late last year, the website said.
KuangChi is so meta
Along with the additional funding, KuangChi brings experience to the table. The company is an established global leader in metamaterials (artificial materials with the potential to make aircraft lighter and more aerodynamic) and near-space aeronautical technology, CNET explained.
[STORY: $100K jetpack flies high in demo]
That background will likely help Martin get its proposed jetpacks out of development and into the hands of consumers far more quickly than would have previously been possible, CEO Peter Coker said. He currently plans to have the first jetpacks in the hands of clients by late next year, and believes that the company will be able to produce around 500 units per year at first.
Currently, the Martin jetpack is capable of carrying a nearly 265-pound (120-kilogram) payload for 30 minutes and reach a maximum altitude of 3,000 feet, according to CNET. Since it does not have a large rotor system like a helicopter, however, it can reach areas other vehicles cannot.
Ultimately, Coker said that the jetpacks will be built exclusively in New Zealand, but he believes that the company will eventually expand into other regions of the world. Martin envisions selling their jetpacks to fire fighters, police officers, EMTs, border security, disaster response teams and search and rescue personnel, as well as to the oil and gas industry, he added.
“The applications are immediately apparent – from sending first-responders into a bushfire to make decisions in a rapidly-developing situation, to sending out jetpack-mounted cameras to get a real-time view of a disaster zone,” CNET said, adding that the company is also looking to use unmanned jetpacks during rescue and recovery operations and other emergencies.”
Also for normal Joes, as well
However, Coker said that they also plan to offer the vehicles for less practical purposes.
“What we’re effectively creating is three-dimensional travel,” he said. “The people who go out to their car in their garage, start it up and then drive down the road to the traffic lights – what you’ll be seeing is people getting into their jetpack in the garage, starting it up, flying out of the garage straight to work, and leaving it there.”
“In places like Manhattan, even places in China where there are very high-rise buildings, you’ll see people with jetpacks on the top of the buildings,” the CEO added. “Rather than going to a meeting down the lifts and on the subway, they’ll just take a jetpack and go from one tall building to another.”