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Jetson? No, Jetpack. A Different Path to UAM

Man flying in jetpack
Jetpack photo courtesy of Smithsonian Magazine.

While the rest of us have been focused on eVTOLs, hybrid VTOLs, and other evolving modes of urban air mobility (UAM) transport, one person – Richard Browning of Wiltshire, Salisbury, England  – has been busy charting a different flight path toward UAM. He’s developed a working jetpack.

As founder and chief test pilot of Gravity Industries, Browning has been perfecting a mode of air transportation that’s been the stuff of science fiction and our imaginations for more than 100 years. Russian scientist Alexander Andreev first applied for a patent for a personal jetpack in 1919.

Browning’s jetpack consists of a harness that carries two turbines on each arm and one on the back. A button at the pilot’s fingertips increases and decreases power to the turbines and thus, lift. Each nudge of the button adds a few kilos of thrust.

The diesel engines currently can propel the pilot/rider for about 10 minutes. Shifting the body’s center of gravity provides directional change.

While Browning believes the first applications will be entertainment-oriented (think jetpack races), he has also joined the Great North Air Ambulance Service, a UK-based charity emergency transport service. Browning and the Service think jetpacks might prove useful in providing faster first-responder services in areas troubled by rough terrain. In a test run in the UK’s Lake District, Browning reached a hypothetical catastrophe scene in 90 seconds compared to the 25 minutes it took to reach the scene by walking.

The Wright Brothers would be proud. Maybe even envious.

Dave Clarke

Dave Clarke is a California-based writer who is fascinated by the way technology changes our lives.