The key problem has been what is called the "weight-to-thrust" ratio, which basically boils down to the conundrum that the heavier you are or the longer you want to stay in the air, the more power you need, which in turn means you have to carry more weight. The highly publicized Bell Rocket Belt, which was developed in the 1950s, could only fly for 30 seconds, for example.
Martin Aircraft set out to build a flying machine that would fall within U.S. aviation regulations for ultralights, defined as aircraft weighing 254 pounds or less, designed for one person, holding no more than five gallons of fuel and capable of moving at a top speed of 55 knots (63 miles per hour).
The company also is developing a heftier jetpack intended for military, emergency rescue services and other government uses, as well as a remotely piloted, unmanned version, Lauder said.
The recreational-use jetpack is expected to sell for about $100,000.
"I certainly don't think it's going to be a George Jetson-sort-of-situation here, where there's one on every block, especially when the price starts out at $100,000," Knapinski tells Discovery News. "But I think you'll see a small section of people who would like to have one of those. I would do it in a second."