11 May 2009 00:00 [Source: ICB]
SINCE THEY first appeared on the covers of pulp magazines in the 1920s, jetpacks have captured the imagination of millions, plugging right into mankind's dream of solitary, "unencumbered" flight. One even appeared on the cover of a recent issue of The New Yorker, and, of course, sci-fi films use them whenever convenient.
In the 1950s, the US military began a series of feasibility studies on the use of jetpacks (or "rocket belts," as they were also called), but by the late 1960s, it abandoned much of the research, determining that helicopters were more practical and reliable.
There are a handful of private companies that will custom-build you a jetpack, for between $150,000-250,000. But even today, a jetpack using hydrogen peroxide propellant weighs about 125 lbs., will only keep you aloft for about 30 seconds, and, unfortunately, can lead to a fatal accident if something goes wrong.
But the promotional video for the Florida-based Jetlev Sports' JETLEV-FLYER was impressive: There's a new jetpack in town.
Using pressurized jets of water, the Jetlev allows a rider to hover, zoom and skip over the water's surface, up to 30 feet in the air. The pack is attached by umbilical cord to a raft-size unit which presumably feeds the Jetlev the water it needs.
This new jetpack is especially exciting because it seems so antithetical to how one "should" work. It is using water to fly! No fire, no propellants!
The new use is also much more "fun" oriented than applications previous funders had planned for it, that's for certain.
Now, you can say this new jetpack is only good for use at amusement parks and their ilk, but I'll throw this back at you: if you install this aquatic jetpack at a park or fair, it will be returning on its investment almost immediately. Every kid (even those who are only young at heart) who takes this jaunt will tell 20 friends, and so on.
And returning on investment is something those old-school jetpacks have not, as much as I love them, been doing.
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