Revolution.Aero Uplift: JetPack Aviation’s Speeder 1.5
One of the most exciting things about getting back to face-to-face events and meetings is seeing how much people have changed. The same applies to aviation start-ups. Take the high-speed VTOL company JetPack Aviation (JPA) for example, which has emerged from the pandemic a different company.
Its initial focus was first responder and emergency medical services using jet-powered personal flying devices, including a jetpack and more recently the Speeder.
But the Speeder has undergone a pandemic transformation. “We’ve moved away from the clustered engine concept. We’re down to a motorcycle-sized craft,” the company’s CEO and founder, David Mayman, tells Revolution.Aero. The newest prototype has cut down on the original airframe, which included more metal work to include a tether system. He says it can now fly tether-free.
The payload remains around 600lbs (273kgs) with a full tank of fuel. At present, the P1.5 (prototype 1.5) is about six feet long and three feet wide. However, Mayman says JPA’s flight control systems are its foremost intellectual property. And modifications to the body – for military use for example – should not be an issue to make.
Aside from producing a sleek flying bike, JPA has surfaced from the pandemic with some other announcements. The company revealed a $800,000 order this month for the sale of two JB12 JetPacks to an undisclosed military customer in Southeast Asia.
“We have just sold two of our legacy products – the jetpacks – to a government in Southeast Asia.” This has led to more enquiries from that region about the Speeder, says Mayman.
Mayman and JPA have also forged a connection with a leading EMS provider in Europe, in anticipation for the next stage of medical services using eVTOL.
Some of the first use cases remain emergency medical and military applications. There is also potential for firefighting. JPA will aim for military certification towards the end of 2022, says Mayman.
JPA was included in a list of 35 top high-speed VTOLs selected by the US Air Force’s AFWERX programme. The programme aims to bring forward the best in the future of aviation and defence. “They want something that can fly at jet-like speeds – 400 miles an hour plus – which we have modelled we can do in the cargo versions,” said Mayman
He is visibly excited. “It is the same vehicle which could be applied, for instance, to ultra-high speed cargo delivery in a civilian context. Or firefighting. What else could a firefighting unit carry with it that could launch within minutes and carry 600-1000 lbs of fire retardant without calling a helicopter?” he said. Mayman sees such applications arriving closer to 2023.
Individual consumers might also eventually have access to a vehicle with a lower thrust class. However, Mayman wants to see “thousands of hours put in with the [US] Department of Defense before this”. Of course, there are some specific challenges with military applications, according to Mayman and other experts at a recent Revolution.Aero Town Hall on government contracts.
Other companies developing solutions are Bell, Karem Aircraft and Jaunt Air Mobility.
The next big milestone for the company, after flight testing the P1.5 – which has begun this week – will be the P2 in the first quarter of next year. P2 will be fully autonomous, said Mayman. “At the at the moment, we are operating half using remote control and half using sensors like LIDAR [light detection and ranging] and radar systems.”
JPA is open to letters of interest to explore new use cases. “We are actively talking to potential customers for high-speed cargo, for example, offshore oil and wind farms.”