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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 24th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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A refreshing taste of honesty

11 January 2018

I think we all remember the Martin Jetpack.

This craft was sold to us as a great example of Kiwi ingenuity and proof that the average Kiwi, working away in his garden shed, can come up with fantastic, ground-breaking inventions that shake the world.

Regular readers will remember that I've been a strong skeptic of the MJP right from the get-go. However, you didn't have to be a qualified rocket scientist to see that this craft had little or no chance of ever becoming the runaway success that its inventor and backers promised it would be.

Sadly however, gullible folk (including our illustrious government) threw money at the company and now tens of millions have been wasted trying to turn this sow's ear into a silk purse.

As reality began to bite, the promised performance was wound back in a number of press releases, each of which announced an "improved" but slower, more limited, less capable machine.

The coup de gras must surely have been the admission that the fantastic engine which powered the MJP would only run for 10 hours between overhauls.

Although they're still going and still pumping out spin, I am even more sure now than I was before that the MJP will never be a commercially viable product.

So jetpacks are just flights of fantasy then?

Well no -- or at least not completely.

Whilst our Kiwi inventor was clearly trying to defy commonsense and fight the laws of physics with all the wrong tools, over in the USA, a small company has been building a jetpack with.... wait for it... real jets!

Yes, perhaps one of the biggest ironies of the MJP was that it didn't actually use a jet engine -- although now the new owners are talking about tossing the reciprocating internal combustion engine and replacing it with a turbine.

This morning I read this BBC story on the efforts of Jetpack Aviation, the US company that really does have a working jetpack. This jetpack took far less time and money to develop than Martin's and knocks it for six in almost every aspect of performance.

Whereas the MJP has only ever been seen performing tentative hops and pedestrian flights over water, the JB10 has flown higher, faster and further than any of the Martin machine's manned forays into the sky.

You'd think therefore, that the guys behind this *real* jetpack would be quite bullish about its future -- given that they've utterly and totally trumped the MJP, a product which, we were promised, would change the world.

Well refreshingly, the guys from Jetpack Aviation are far more honest about the future of their machine.

In the BBC story linked above, one of the founders is straight-up enough to state that in his own experience, jetpacks would not become a common mode of transport, at least in their current form.

Give that man an award for honesty and integrity!

And now, let's rip off to the other end of the scale for a moment and look at something that is surely straight out of la-la land.

Yesterday I was on a webcast run by sUASNews, a news service that focuses on the drone industry. On the panel were also a couple of "entrepreneurs" operating out of the USA who claim to have invented technology that, to be totally honest, is (IMHO) just bullshirt.

Looking like Che Guevara and Bonnie Parker, this couple told us how their drone was so smart it could tell whether someone was carrying a gun and (I kid you not), even whether that gun was loaded or not.

Designed to assist police, this drone also had bullet-proof armour that can stop a 50-calibre projectile, effectively creating a defensive shield between any perpetrators and police.

Let me quote just a little from their website:

By combining our AI with facial recognition, anomaly detection, sensors and object detection, our Predictive Probable Cause™ technology can provide an educated public safety prediction on situations a pilot is encountering. For example, a stadium or festival security team piloting a drone over a crowd is able to better detect concealed weapons, identify the type of weapons, identify who the person(s) are with the said concealed weapons and thus improve their situational awareness in real time and from a safe remote location. For police officers, PPC™ provides the ability to know what they're dealing with before they get out of the car, for maximum prevention of gun violence and safer traffic stops on behalf of all involved. Patent pending

Just as impressive were the super batteries they'd stumbled on that would give three times the performance of existing technologies (Cue Tui's ad). Of course the downside of this advanced battery tech was that nobody wanted to make them because they were too dangerous.

Sigh!

Here's the website for this fantastic company and its drones.

For a full appreciation of what I'm talking about however, do look at the webcast (YouTube video). Trust me, you won't have to watch more than a few minutes to get a sniff of what's going on with this company.

And the kicker... apparently they've received significant amounts of funding from government and other sources. Yep, even in the USA, bureaucrats love a tall story and will throw money at anyone who's good enough at telling them, regardless of the credibility of their claims.

The upside is that I guess we don't have to feel quite so embarrassed over the MJP now.

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