Hands-free jetpack with autopilot system unveiled
Image credit: Maverick Aviation
A hands-free jetpack designed for carrying out maintenance in hard-to-reach locations or for carrying out rescue operations has been unveiled by British start-up Maverick Aviation.
The Maverick Jetpack uses a Vertical Take-off and Landing (VTOL) system and is designed to be operated hands-free, allowing people to make safer flights and conduct precision landings on structures that are difficult to access, such as wind turbines, military hardware or construction projects.
The vehicle can also be reconfigured as a heavy-lift drone that can be operated remotely and is capable of carrying ten times the payload of other similarly sized systems, its creators claim.
Helicopters are currently used to carry out much of the work for which its creators believe the Jetpack would be well-suited. The much smaller size of the Jetpack and its potential to use sustainable fuel could slash costs, Maverick said.
The Jetpack has been designed to be lightweight through the use of manufacturing techniques such as 3D printing and the inclusion of materials such as aluminium, titanium and carbon fibre. It can travel at speeds of between 10mph and 30mph, depending on the task.
The control system has been designed to allow the operator to switch between the in-built autopilot and manual control so they can multi-task while in flight if necessary.
Early work on the control system software was funded by a £97,000 grant from Innovate UK that was secured by Maverick’s grant partner Catax, which also helped pay for patent applications and the creation of a concept demonstrator.
The first manned test flight is scheduled for next summer and the company is about to start seeking further investment to take the Jetpack to market.
Antony Quinn, CEO and co-founder of Maverick Aviation, said: “The Jetpack uses the same sort of jet engines that you see on a passenger plane, only ours are the size of a rugby ball. What is unique about what we’re doing is the computer-controlled autopilot system that makes flying effortless and easy to control with precision. That’s how we have changed jetpacks from exciting to useful.
“It’s so intuitive to fly that the cost of training is going to be low, so you’re going to have all sorts of professionals suddenly able to work in the most inaccessible environments safely and quickly. I realised that the growing onshore and offshore wind industry really needed a solution like this. Their engineers climb up ladders inside these structures for hours each day and, in an emergency situation, it’s almost impossible to get down quickly. Drones can be useful for inspections, but in many circumstances you need to get an engineer up there.
“During tours of Afghanistan and Iraq, the number of possible use cases just kept on mounting and I realised how big the opportunity was. The potential is almost endless. Before, people would have used a £30m helicopter to perform some simple tasks; we can offer a more tailored solution at a fraction of the cost.”
E&T recently looked at a number of active projects designed to bring jetpacks and flying suits to commercial viability, including electric wingsuits and kerosene jetsuits.
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