We've been waiting for a good personal jet pack system since seeing Sean Connery strap on that Bell-Textron thing in the opening sequence of Thunderball.
Thunderbolt Aerosystems founder Carmelo "Nino" Amarena must have seen that movie too because when he decided to try and shorten the grueling commute to his Bay Area office, he came up with what he says is a practical and economical personal air vehicle - one that won't blow up on your back like those hydrogen peroxide-powered prototypes of the early 1960s.
Don't get too excited just yet if you're a big guy. While the new version can stay aloft for up to 75 seconds, a 300% increase over what other systems offer, and go 65 MPH, it's limited to a 160 lb. man and a laptop. See it in action here:
Amarena began his design work by consulting with the engineers and test pilots who had developed and flown the first rocket belts, including the system's original test pilot, Thunderbolt Aerosystems' current Director of Training William "Bill" Suitor.
Amarena learned that while decades had elapsed since Bell Aerosystems had developed the first systems for the Army, there had been virtually no improvement in the 22 seconds of time aloft provided by rocket belts.
Amarena reviewed company and government technical data and designs in the public domain to quickly develop and peer-review a promising new rocket belt design. The architecture is based on an innovative dual-fuel system, a new catalyst design, specially-formulated fuel promoters and the use of novel, lightweight materials.
With a recent test flight of 37 seconds, and a potential dual-fuel feature capable of flying well more than one minute, Thunderbolt Aerosystems is closer than ever to fielding a rocket belt "for the masses."
According to Amarena, such a vehicle could be used for a host of
defense, commercial and personal purposes, including support of military missions, disaster relief efforts, border patrol assignments, and even overcoming those snail-paced commutes. The company's ThunderPack can be ordered now and delivered at a price under $100,000.
Amarena notes that meaningful increases in system endurance lie in
getting beyond rocket propulsion to more efficient, more economical, and more robust jet propulsion. Accordingly, a jet-propelled personal flight system - the THUNDERJET -- is precisely where Amarena's current research and development efforts are now focused.
Amarena has identified engines and manufacturing designs for a dual engine THUNDERJET and foresees developing a system within a year capable of providing up to 35 minutes of sustained flight and an eventual market price in the $100,000 unit range.