Science Faction – Jetpacks

Feature

Science Faction – Jetpacks
Enough of this walking nonsense
Are your boots working hard enough for you?!
Sure, they protect your feet from the elements, provide arch support and compliment a pair of skinny jeans like nobody’s business. But have you ever felt something was missing from the equation?
Have you ever felt that something might be rockets?!!

What We Want: Rocket Boots!

So there you were, struggling to enjoy Star TrekV: The Final Frontier but taking solace in the fact Spock had reached the pinnacle of cool. He was irrefutably the measure against which all future cool be judged.

Then he shows up in some Rocket Boots and punts that notion out the window!

Individual, technologically enhanced flight is a popular trope in most science fiction and for good reason. Let’s face it; walking is life’s great chore. And since Jetpacks have been popularised since the 1920’s, notably in comics such as The Rocketeer and cult icons like Bobba Fett (yeah he’s got a jet pack in there somewhere) the notion of strapping on a pair of rocket boots is a difficult fantasy to kick. Ha!

Manga Robot Astro Boy has been rocking the jet propulsion footwear since 1952 but the widespread, mainstream approval of the concept can probably be attributed to 2008’s Iron Man.

Yes, alcoholic super-genius Tony Stark has been blithely quipping his way across the skies in graphic novels since the 60’s, but it was only when €585m worth of people watched RDJ rocket boot himself into the roof that the fantasy really gained a foothold. HA!


Rocket Boots, Jetpacks and miscellaneous levitation tech is appealing for obvious reasons. The ability to literally step into the skies and soar their majesty without the debilitating taint of effort is definitive daydream fodder.

Unfortunately, back in reality we have niggling issues like cost, atmosphere and that temperamental cow Gravity holding us back. Or more aptly, down.

Plus the fact eons of evolution have determined that Man is best left with his feet on terra firma tends to harsh the buzz somewhat...

What We Got: Jetpacks.... Sort of...

If Mark Millar’s enlightening documentary ‘Kick Ass’ has taught us anything, it’s that Jetpacks exist and are available on EBay. And while a pinch of salt or six should be taken with this ‘truth’, there are indeed countless versions in production by private companies and enthusiastic D.I.Y.ers.

So rather than list them all, we’ll examine the sordid history of the jetpackery, eventually splash landing upon its inevitable, aquatic conclusion.


Himmelstürmer
In the later years of WWII, certain German engineers reckoned it was a good plan to strap twin Shmmdt pulse jet tubes to a pilot. And why wouldn’t they?!

This essentially mirrored the Argus AS 014 pulse jet design that propelled the infamous Fieseler Fi 103 Flying Bomb. So, you know, what could possibly go wrong?

The modulating tube angled to the pilot’s back provided lift and forward thrust, resulting in calculated ‘jumps’ of up to 60 meters at the relatively low altitudes of 15 metres or lower. The tubes actually consumed little fuel but the enterprise was obviously intended for engineers and support roles.

Ironic then that this project never got off the ground... HA! (Last one I swear)


Bell Jet Flying Belt
In 1965 DARPA contracted Bell Aerosystems to get cracking on an honest to god jetpack. The resulting WR19 Jet Belt boasted a rated thrust of 1910 newtons and weighed 31 kilos. Its first free flight occurred at Niagara Falls Municipal Airport on April 7th 1969 and flew for about 100metres at an altitude of about 7 and reached speeds of 45km/h.

I don’t see Tony Stark quaking in his rocket-boots over that. Neither did DARPA sadly, and the project was scrapped soon after due to the belts weight and potential threats to the pilot.
Still pretty nifty though.

NASA's Manned Maneuvering Unit
NASA premiered its MMU in the 80s, a rocket propelled pack enabling astronauts to essentially function as their own spacecraft. Via high-pressure nitrogen discharged through an array of 24 nozzles, the MMU was propelled about its operational area just outside spacecraft and stations. Unfortunately, the curse of the jet-pack persisted and the system was retired before the decade’s end.

The MMU, though technically a cheater (no gravity, no kudos!) is considered the only jetpack constructed of any practical importance. Obviously, whoever spoke such blasphemy never got a load of this...

Zapata Flyboard AKA
The Dolphin Jetpack!!!

Finally, we’re getting somewhere!

Previously known for winning jet-ski races, Franky Zapata began production on the Flyboard last year (with the aid of his development company, naturally).


Building on schematics that simply MUST have been inspired by Iron Man in some way, shape or form, the Flyboard features underfoot propulsion and dual hand stabilizers.


This PWC obviously employs jets of seawater rather than pressurised gas, evidenced by the metres long water pump which remains submerged throughout flight. For this reason we don’t suggest attempting to use the Dolphin Jetpack in mountainous terrain.
Mainly because it won’t work.

With a cost of approx €6000, a hovering height of almost 10 metres, the ability to speed through the air, submerge yourself underwater and execute acrobatic flips, Zapata’s Flyboard might actually be the first viable jet-packing experience.
Especially when the terms of said success are almost exclusively defined by looking cool!

Coz god knows that was the case for Spock!


Science Faction – Jetpacks on ClickOnline.com
About this author

jack@clickonline.com
Staff Reporter
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