Another giant leap for China: First-ever manned jetpacks for commercial use ready to ship in 2016 as Martin Jetpack launches in Shenzhen

Blast from the past: Like a scene from James Bond movie Thunderball

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 December, 2015, 4:54pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 April, 2016, 3:35pm

It was too noisy for some of the 2,000 bystanders at OCT Harbour on Saturday but even they admitted the Martin Jetpack was exciting to behold as they witnessed a demonstration of the world’s first personal jetpack in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen.

The product got its commercial launch at this former boomtown in Guangdong province with a flight over a manmade lake surrounded by a country park, malls and hotels that had its operator towering several dozen metres above ground.

Local media hailed this as yet another high-profile example of Shenzhen’s - and by extension China’s - rapidly growing technological prowess.

“It’s amazing to see a made-in-China jetpack. I’m so proud,” said local resident Wendy Liu.

The manned jetpack is backed by Kuang-Chi Science, a Hong Kong-listed but Shenzhen-based firm that specialises in emerging technology. It is owned by Liu Ruopeng, a man who has been dubbed the “Elon Musk of China” in homage to the brains behind Tesla’s electric cars and SpaceX.

However, the jetpack was created by New Zealander Glenn Martin, who conceived and developed the project in 1981. Martin Aircraft Company was set up nearly two decades later in 1998, and in 2010 the world’s first practical jetpack was named among Time magazine’s Top 50 inventions for the year.

WATCH: Martin Jetpack finding solutions HD

Kuang-Chi Science acquired a controlling 52 per cent share in the company earlier this year, after which it said it improved on the jetpack’s original design.

The company now expects to deliver its first batch of orders next year. They are likely to retail for around 1.6 million yuan (US$250,000) apiece, it said.

After the fire department of Dubai ordered 20 units last month, a bigger shipment totalling 100 manned jetpacks and 20 simulators are all destined for mainland China, according to the company.

Kuang-Chi Science has also established its so-called Iron Man Club in Shenzhen as part of plans to attract wealthy individuals from all over China to come and personally experience the jetpack.

The jetpack relies on a gasoline engine to drive twin ducted fans, which together produce sufficient thrust to get the product and pilot airborne and keep them there for a reasonable “flight” time.

READ MORE: ‘Elon Musk of China’ aims to give the world a commercial jetpack - but is it just a flight of fancy?

During its debut, the flight lasted just over five minutes. In tests, however, it has proved itself able to carry commercial payloads of up to 120 kilogrammes with a maximum flight time of 45 minutes at speeds of up to 80kph, the company said.

It can operate close to or between buildings, near trees and in confined spaces where other aircraft are unable to go, the company said, adding that it has a wide range of potential uses including in search and rescue attempts, as well as other military, recreational and commercial applications.