Despite a lifetime of waiting we don't yet have our flying cars, our rayguns, our space holidays, nor even our robot/brainchipped-monkey butlers. However, from August - if the manufacturers are to be believed - ordinary consumers will finally be able to buy a (marginally) useful jetpack, for just $100,000.
The "Thunderpack™", produced by Thunderbolt Aerosystems uses a novel "dual fuel" system to increase flight time somewhat over that offered by rocketpacks of the past, which could seldom stay up for more than 30 seconds.
Here's the obligatory YouTube footage:
Topped up with 98lbs of explosive high-test hydrogen peroxide and 4lb of ordinary kerosene, the Thunderpack™ R2-G2 - expected to be available from August - can stay aloft for up to 75 seconds ("a 300 per cent increase over what other systems offer") and carry its pilot almost three-quarters of a mile. The whole system weighs 182lb when fuelled up, and can lift a person and baggage weighing up to 180lb total.
Thunderbolt CEO Carmelo Amarena reckons that his Mountain View-based company is "closer than ever to fielding a rocket belt 'for the masses'... such a vehicle could be used for a host of defense, commercial and personal purposes... even overcoming those snail-paced commutes... THUNDERPACK can be ordered now and delivered at a price under $100,000."
Despite his enthusiasm about the rocketpack, Amarena does seem to acknowledge its problems. Three-quarters of a mile range and 75 seconds endurance isn't vastly impressive in a system weighing nearly 200lb and requiring frequent, hefty top-ups of corrosive, explosive hazmat fuel.
But Thunderpack™ is just the beginning. Amarena also says he plans next-gen kit which will use jet engines rather than rockets, thus achieving much better fuel efficiency. Thunderbolt says:
Amarena has identified engines and manufacturing designs for a dual engine Thunderjet™ and foresees developing a system within a year capable of providing up to 35 minutes of sustained flight. Amarena foresees an eventual Thunderjet™ market price in the $100,000 unit range.
Which will be a lot better. Assuming a jetpack can be made which doesn't burn the wearer's legs off and deafen everyone in the parking lot, there would still be a few little issues; air-traffic control and safety not least among them.
It's all good old Mountain View fun, but we'll take a bet against being able to soar over the traffic jams to your office window by jetpack any time soon. ®