Gear | March 29, 2017 9:00 am

We Watched a Man Fly an Honest-to-God Jetpack

It’s real, it’s spectacular, and it’s seeking investors

Ever sat in First Class and felt there was just too much pesky aircraft between you and the sky?

David Mayman, a winsome Australian, has devoted the last 25 years of his life to building jetpacks. He and his partner, Nelson Tyler, are serious about this venture: they’ve sold prototypes to several international companies, enlisted the help of the engineer of the rocket belt, and are currently seeking investors for Jetpack Aviation, which hopes to put consumers (i.e., you) in jetpacks.

But this jetpack evangelist doesn’t just talk the talk; he flies the flight. We know because we recently caught his JB-10 test model in action.

That 10 stands for tenth iteration. The earlier versions were like “riding a bull,” according to Mayman. Prior to JB-8, “they were scary, scary beasts.” From where we stood, they still look it. On ignition, flames distend from twin rear-mounted jet engines that propel the JB-10 in 360-degrees patterns — up, down, forward, backward, diagonal. And it cuts on a dime … which also means it can plummet on one.

Not that the JB-10 is especially difficult to pilot. The controls are intuitive enough that we witnessed Drunk Tech Review’s Mischa Patton get one airborne with zero training.

So when can you fly one?

If you’re in the military, soon. Jetpack Aviation recently partnered with Georgia Tech to build a “Soldier Vertical Mobility System,” and they’re collaborating with the US Navy for a model that will be used by SEALs.

But for it to go commercial, the FAA will require them to develop custom parachutes that can open at low or high altitude … which in turn necessitates an altitude sensor, plus the mechanism to eject it. Mayman is currently raising funds to build that technology, along with an increased battery capacity so that flights last longer than 10 minutes. If all goes to plan, this should convince the FAA to approve untethered test flights over solid ground (right now, they can only fly over water).

As for skipping the 405 to take it to work: that’s dependent on so many variables that they wouldn’t give us an estimate. One estimate we do know: base-level investing starts at about $200.

The future is yours, Mr. Jetson.