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The Martin Jetpack seems to have had an awfully long gestation.
Since it was announced over a year ago, with a hiss and a roar (quite literally), the pack really seems to have faltered on take-off, despite numerous "nearly done" deals and even a move into the adventure tourism marketplace.
With a development cost that is now well into seven digits, I think investors might be getting just a little edgy, especially when new entrants threaten to usurp the Martin before it's even properly off the ground.
Before the Martin Jetpack was announced, most people's definition of a jetpack was actually the *rocket* pack made famous in that James Bond movie.
The rocket-pack is a much smaller device which was well and truly proven to fly back in the 1960s.
Powered by hydrogen peroxide, the rocketpack is compact, powerful and once the pilot has been trained, surprisingly maneuverable. It's also very reliable, having no reciprocating or rotating parts.
These would all seem to make the rocket pack infinitely more attractive than the Martin, with its screaming motor of many parts, massive bulk and seemingly limited maneuverability.
Of course the rocket pack has one major failing -- it can only fly for 30 seconds or so at a time. The fact that it also requires dangerous near-pure hydrogen peroxide as a fuel is also a significant downside.
Running on regular petrol and offering truly practical flight-times, the Martin did seem to own the market -- not that there's really much of a market to own.
However, things may be about to change, and not in a good way for Martin.
A US company, JetPack International, are already selling rocket packs so they have developed a reputation for being able to deliver on promises. But, as I've already pointed out, rocket packs are really not that practical.
If you take a look at their Equipment page however, you'll see that Jetpack International have a *real* jet-pack, the "T-73" which has a real jet engine and is due for release before the end of 2010.
Okay, the range is only 11 miles and flight-time is still somewhat limited at 9 minutes (although they say 19 minutes in this article) but if these guys can deliver in the way they've delivered on the rocket-pack promise, a good chunk of Martin's market will have flown out the window.
Who'd want to buy a massively bulky and unwieldy pair of fans driven by something akin to a skimobile engine when you could have a cool jet-pack with a real jet engine? And, if these guys get this thing to market by Christmas -- it will be the only true jetpack commercially available anywhere.
But you know, to be totally honest -- I don't think we'll see this jetpack actually being available for sale either.
Jetpacks are great stuff to dream about but in reality, gravity just sucks too much to make them even remotely viable on a commercial basis.
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