David Mayman’s jetpack design has come a long way in the last nine years. On Sunday, the aviation inventor donned his flying gear for a spectacular solo flight over Sydney Harbour, taking in famous sights such as the Opera House and Harbour Bridge as he went. Ten years ago, a similar effort using an older version of his jetpack ended suddenly when the machine ran out of fuel, sending Mayman splashing into the water.
The weekend flight, we’re happy to report, was a confident, crash-free performance, with Mayman able to demonstrate the stability and speed of the JP10 — the latest version in a series of rigs that first put Mayman and his JetPack Aviation company in the spotlight in 2004. The turbine-powered, kerosene-fueled JP10 incorporates a number of different sensors that constantly measure its orientation in order to adjust the thrusters to keep the machine — and the pilot — stable as they move through the air.
Sunday’s outing was also part of efforts to promote Mayman’s recently released Own The Sky documentary that follows the Aussie’s decade-long quest to build a viable jetpack. The trailer (below) features an old clip showing the entrepreneur preparing to test an extremely bulky prototype.
Kitted out like a racing driver, an apprehensive Mayman turns to fellow engineer Nelson Tyler and says: “You’ll get me out if I need to get out?” When he finally hits the ignition, Mayman “dances” chaotically across the ground as he tries to get the thing in the air while dodging the ferocious heat being blasted toward his feet by the engines (the accompanying Irish folk music matches perfectly). Yes, Mayman and his team have made huge progress since then.
The latest version of the jetpack costs a cool $300,000, but in 2018 Mayman started offering more affordable training courses at bases in California and southern France for people who want to know what it’s like to fly solo with a jet turbine strapped to their back.
The team is also working on the launch of a racing league to pit jetpack pilots against one another on a course involving obstacles and other challenges. Think drone racing with a human attached.
Mayman’s Sydney flight came just days after another kind of solo flying machine, this one built by Franky Zapata, took part in France’s Bastille Day celebrations. Zapata piloted his Flyboard Air over the Champs-Elysee, gaining a nod of approval from President Macron during the impressive flypast.