Admit it, we all fantasize about jet packs, but the only image that comes up is Sean Connery as James Bond in "Thunderball". This is the one where Bond uses the Bell Rocket Belt. The Bell Rocket Belt was a real working jet pack, using hydrogen peroxide as fuel. It created super-heated steam to propel it through the air. You still had to wear insulated clothing to not burn your legs off. This model was made in the 1960s and could only carry enough fuel for a 20 second flight. Updates in the mid 1990s only extended its range to 20 seconds… So it's 2011 and officially the future, so where the hell are our rocket packs?!?!
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Well the jet pack has arrived, in a much safer, non-leg burning off, non-running out of fuel mid-flight, Daytona Beach Spring Break-ready version. Ray Li, from Newfoundland, Canada is who we have to thank. He emigrated from Hong Kong to Toronto, Canada and spent his youth obsessed with the idea of James Bond and his jet pack. He realized all the problems with the Bell Rocket Belt, such as the weight, the extreme heat and running out of fuel. Li dedicated plenty of personal time over the next 20 years dreaming and researching how he could make one. One day on vacation in 1997, he was now in his early 40s, he rented a jet ski and noticed the how jet ski propelled itself. This was his eureka moment.
After plenty of experimentation, he came up with the concept of having the jet pack tethered to a jet ski-like attachment. The jet ski-like attachment would hold the engine, gas tank and pump that would power the jet pack. This eliminated the huge problem of weight buy having all that equipment on your back. The attachment would pump water from a four-stroke 200-250hp engine through a 33 foot hose to the jet pack. This would provide 430 pounds of thrust that can lift a 150lb person up to 28 feet in the air and up to 22 mph. It has a 26 gallon gas tank that allows for an hour at full throttle or two to three hours just cruising.
After eight years of development, he flew it for the first time in 2005 in Newfoundland. With lakes freezing in Newfoundland in the winter, he set up shop in Florida. He went through several prototypes to get all the safety and control issues sorted out. And yes, everyone thought he was crazy. It uses a fly-by-wire throttle system, that you twist he grip to use and you control each jet with each arm. Of course there is concern about the safety. While you fly over two stories high (about the height of the big diving board at a public pool), you're always over water. Unless you manage to crash into a yacht trying to high-five people on it.
It has a quick-release harness, protective back and head support and don't worry, it floats. Also, the amount of thrust from the jets is low-pressure, high-flow, the opposite of a pressure washer. It will not rip-off your skin or anything and only hurts slightly. The hose to the attachment actually adds stability as a tether, similar to a tail of a kite. Over a hundred people have tried it with no serious injuries and it only takes a few minutes for an instructor to teach you to use it. One feature that makes it even cooler is you can completely submerge it, letting you dive in and and fly out of the water, like those Navy-trained dolphins.
The current Jetlev R200 model is selling for $99,500 with around 70 planed for North and South America, with major resorts being the primary buyers. They are already getting ready to distribute to the rest of the world and are taking orders. So put your deposit down now and you could be telling chicks you're James Bond next Spring Break. And remember, don't drink and jet! We don't want some idiot getting these things banned like the Segway before we all get to try it. (it's safe to assume the segway got banned because of some DWI)