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Mon, May 30, 2011

Whaddya Know... Martin 'Jetpack' REALLY Flies

Unmanned Martin Jetpack Climbs To 5000' and Tests Ballistic Parachute Deployment/Recovery

For those who thought the Martin ducted fan personal flying machine (aka 'Martin Jetpack' -- even though no 'jets' are involved) was a complex parlor trick (and yeah, we were getting there), there seems to be some evidence that the machine CAN actually accomplish some complex, even useful, helicopter like flying tasks. A recent test flight, radio-controlled from a chase helo, proved that the system can attain serious altitudes, while also showing that the BRS emergency system (as usual) can handle an emergency descent with relative ease.

The latest test flight took place over Canterbury Plains (NZ) at a climb rate of 800ft per minute, reaching an altitude of 5,000ft (beating the previous record of 100 FPM and 50' ultimate altitude) before deploying a ballistic  parachute in the first such test of this system.

The Martin folks, of course, are heralding this as a 'major step towards commercial production of the world's first practical Jetpack' while Inventor Glenn Martin noted that, "This successful test brings the future another step closer." The flight was part of an intensive period of flight-testing for the Jetpack as the Martin Aircraft Company works through the 'final development phase' of the Jetpack's technologies with the aim to have first deliveries of both the manned and unmanned (UAV) versions to key customers within the next 18 months. The commercial version of the vehicle is being designed to fly for half an hour or more, climb more than 1000 FPM and cruise at 100 kmh.

 "In this test we limited the Jetpack to 800 FPM climb so the chase helicopters could keep up," said Martin. This test utilized the UAV unmanned version using a weighted dummy, simulating a pilot's weight, to demonstrate the Jetpack's ability to fly at higher operational altitudes. The Ballistic Parachute safety system was also tested, and 'while this test was a verification of the safety system using an off the shelf version, Martin Aircraft believes that with the purpose built Ballistic Parachute they are developing, unlike helicopters, the Jetpack's avoidance curve can be removed entirely - meaning that with the Martin safety systems there is no height where a catastrophic failure needs to lead to significant injury.'

"This test also validated our flight model, proved thrust to weight ratio and proved our ability to fly a Jetpack as an unmanned aerial vehicle, which will be key to some of the Jetpack's future emergency/search & rescue and military applications," said Martin. The earliest Martin Jetpack customers are expected to be in the military and emergency response sectors around the world. Unmanned Jetpacks could be used for delivery, observation and extraction in areas and situations too dangerous for people and other aircraft to get to. Martin Aircraft CEO, Richard Lauder said the Christchurch based company is now in an intensive testing period to refine technology in the areas of safety (the Ballistic Parachute), engine performance over extended and continuous hours of operation, and high speed flight stability. He said all the technologies tested during the high flight performed well and technicians are already working on the next test to push new boundaries of the flight envelope.

Lauder says that, "this latest successful high flight was a complex aviation event requiring approval from the Civil Aviation Authority, and took several months to coordinate. From a company point of view, the high flight shows Martin Aircraft's development over the past two years and its expertise in coordinating and running a sophisticated and complex aviation event of this nature."

FMI: www.martinjetpack.com

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