Water powered jet pack?

As time has passed, I’ve come to think that the concept of cheap personal flight was the overeager dream of a motorizing nation. The technological zeitgeist that began with Ford saw, as its likely conclusion, skyways dominated by jet packs and flying cars. Those stale fantasies never came to fruition for many reasons, and the futurists of the time couldn’t see past the horizon of their current paradigm. The digital era wasn’t even on the sci-fi radar – no one anticipated that the dreams of personal flight would be made generally obsolete by the internet age and its inherent ability to communicate libraries of information at the speed of light.

So, cheap personal flight is a hallmark fantasy that collapsed not long after the beginning of the jet age. Discounting ultralights and other such small planes, there isn’t an affordable means to spend your afternoon lounging amongst the clouds.

Enter 2010, and not much has changed. Cheap and flight are still not words used in combination amongst mixed company. However, if money isn’t an option, and the clouds aren’t your destination of choice, continuous jet powered flight is now a reality. JetLev is a breakout company that has come up with an awesome (and marketable) idea – water powered jet packs, or as they call it, the JetLev-Flyer. There are some obvious limitations, the most annoying being that flight is only permissible over aqueous surfaces. However, with a current ceiling of 30 feet and a max speed of 40mph, it sounds like one hell of a good time.

The jet pack works by dragging a small raft, complete with an inboard four-stroke motor, some distance behind the pilot (oh yes, did I mention that they recommend having a pilot’s license?) The raft connects to the jet pack via a long hose through which water is pumped that then shoots out of the jet pack nozzles at around 60 psi. Given the weight of water, it takes far less than you might think to get good old Newton’s third law to lift the pilot clear into the air. With flight durations approaching 2 hours in the commercially available models, it blows the 30 second flights of conventional jet packs out of the… well, water.
Jetlev also hints at models with non-recreational applications (think paramilitary – who needs landing craft anyway?), that could reach speeds in excess of 50 mph, altitudes of 50 feet, a cruise duration of 5 hours, a range exceeding 180 miles, and carrying payloads in excess of 1000 lbs. They even say that these limits are set for safety reasons and are not representative of the true limitations of the technology. Did I mention that it also works underwater?

So, are you as amazed as I am? Check out this video:

Amped up yet? Ok, here’s the catch, the cheapest model costs $130,000. If you want a more powerful motor, you’ll throw down almost a quarter mil. At least their market research team has the right idea, they advertise the JetLev-Flyer as the perfect accompaniment to your yacht, purpose-built lake, or private island.

Here’s hoping they read this post and offer me a free test flight.

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~ by Wil Finley on January 13, 2010.

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