Lift-off! Jetpack maker targets police, rescue services

Lift-off! Jetpack maker targets police, rescue services

PARIS - In a hall at the far end of the Paris Airshow ground, a man strapped into a harness and wearing goggles appears on screen flying over the roofs of the French capital in what at first sight looks like a video game.

Fascinating visitors to this week's show, it is in fact a simulator of a jetpack made by New Zealand-based Martin Aircraft IPO-MAI.NZ and displayed for the first time to the public.

The company, in which Hong Kong-based technology group Kuang-Chi Science Ltd owns 32 percent, is aiming what it dubs "the world's first practical jetpack" at fire services, police and those involved in recovery efforts after natural disasters.

"It consumes 1 litre of fuel per minute, the same as a helicopter, but it can land in small spaces, hover very close to things, and its servicing is cheaper," Martin Aircraft Chief Executive Peter Coker told Reuters.

The simulator at the air show recreates the feel of vertical take off and landing with the 200-kilogramme device, which can fly a maximum of 74 kilometres an hour up to altitudes of 1,000 metres, has a range of between 30 and 50 kilometres and comes equipped with a parachute.

Martin Aircraft expects to start deliveries of the jetpacks to fire, police and search-and-rescue services in the second half of 2016.

The company is also targeting the commercial market. The jetpacks, which can be flown remotely, could also be used for agriculture and recreational purposes, Coker said.

Martin Aircraft, via a joint venture with Kuang-Chi, signed a deal at the air show with Chinese leisure and tourism company Beijing Flying Man Science & Technology Ltd for a potential order of 100 manned jetpacks, 50 unmanned, 25 static models and 25 simulators.

It also signed an agreement with a unit of China's AVIC International for future deliveries, though no further details were given.

Conceived and developed by Glenn Martin in 1981, who still holds a 22 percent stake in the company, the jetpacks are being tested in Christchurch, New Zealand, and could be available to people for personal use at the end of 2017, with a target price of US$200,000 (S$266,000), Coker said.

Users need training and a microlight aircraft licence to use the jetpack, test pilot Michael Van Der Vliet told Reuters.

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