One of the smallest jets ever designed could be years away from becoming the first sky-legal motorcycle. Once certified by the FAA, the Jetpack Aviation Speeder is a flying street bike that uses eight small but powerful jet engines to cruise at 60 mph for approximately 30 minutes.
“We are working on a special airworthiness certificate for pilot certification,” says David Mayman, CEO of Jetpack Aviation. “It’s taking longer than expected because it’s a very different animal than the FAA has ever had to deal with.”
The original design had four turbines (as seen in the pictures), but the final product has eight (pictured), with two wheels in each corner for safety reasons due to redundancy. They also allow the Speeder, which weighs about 300 pounds, to carry 600 pounds, a size-to-carry ratio that sets the Speeder apart from other VTOL vehicles.
Barebone Speeder P2 prototypes are being tested at the company’s California facility. It is connected, pending FAA certification. The prototype achieved independent ups and downs. It also hovered and moved forward in flight. The company will also showcase a full-scale, sleek black model at events. “It’s designed for the rider with a seat similar to that of a motorcycle, or with the feet down or in the back like a racing bike,” Mayman explains.
An unmanned version is also being developed for the military market as a cargo aircraft. It can fly 100 feet above the ground at
400 miles per hour, making it difficult to shoot down.”We envision sending 10 of them from different directions, like a swarm of drones, all loaded for life-saving missions,” says Mayman.
The Jetpack Aviation Speeder P2 is currently undergoing testing and may receive FAA certification in two years.
Focusing on a military version is a way to fund long-term testing before the aircraft eventually becomes a flying motorcycle, or, as Jetpack Aviation calls it, an “independent flying vehicle.” While the AFV doesn’t have the same easy-rider cool ring to it, it points to the potential of a new class of aircraft that is now just one class.
In piloted motorcycle form, the Speeder could potentially reach 250 mph, though even the best riders would struggle to reach that speed. So the company has a regulator and a height limiter for the engines. “Theoretically, you can go up to 16,000 feet before you run out of fuel,” Mayman says with a wink. “But then you need a parachute.”
Speeders have fly-by-wire technology like fighters. Controls are designed to be simple and are limited to switches on the handles, just like video games. “One is for takeoff and landing; the other is for speed and climbing,” says Mayman. When the Speeder takes off, it rises to a height of about six feet and hovers, its internal flight controller awaiting the pilot’s instructions. The control unit is connected to several sensors that detect where the plane is moving and what obstacles must be avoided to avoid collisions. “If there is a building or a tree in front, it will automatically detect and avoid it,” he says.
The Mini jet engines produce enough thrust to carry two or even three drivers. However, if the Speeder meets the FAA’s FAR Part 103 Ultralight category, it can only carry one passenger.Mayman says the Speeder could eventually go supersonic, though the company “doesn’t have a technical answer to that yet.”
The protective chassis, reminiscent of an F1 race car, could provide the safety curtain required to reach top speeds of 250 mph.”With small wings, it could fly for almost an hour,” says Mayman.
Although certification is still years away, the Mayman got a taste of demand at last summer’s Pacific Air Show. “We had the Speeder in the VIP tent, and a lot of people came up and said, “I don’t need another Lamborghini or Bentley,” ” “I want this one.”
Get in line The company has already started taking pre-orders for the Speeder, priced at $381,000,