x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Jetpack: out of science fiction, into reality

When the Martin Jetpack takes to the UAE skies in 2015, a dream will become realty. But how will the machine be used?

The concept of the jetpack is not new: it has been around for decades. By the 1950s, science-fiction magazines depicted people zipping effortlessly around over futuristic skylines.

The idea became reality, in a clunky way, in the 1950s with the Bell Rocket Belt. But that version could lift a person only 10 metres and could stay up for a maximum of 20 seconds.

But now, as The National reported yesterday, there's a personal flight device - the Martin Jetpack - that is actually ready to fly, or nearly; it is supposed to take to the UAE's skies in 2015.

The report had both good and bad news for those impatient for the long-promised gadget: This machine has great manoeuvrability and can reach a height of 1,500 metres and speed of more than 70 kph. But it will cost at least Dh367,000, perhaps as much as Dh918,000, and it's almost the size of a small car. But that too is good news: at that price, the skies will not soon be as full of bad drivers as our roads.

Will this thing ever catch on, either for narrow specific purposes or else as a toy? Invention and engineering are tricky, but knowing what society will do with a given gadget is even trickier. "Experts" used to scoff at the idea of personal computers. The future is always full of surprises.