Pilotless Martin Jetpack Flies Seven Minutes

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The Martin Jetpack flew for more than seven minutes and at altitudes of more than 100 feet last week but there was a dummy at the controls. The New Zealand company put a mannequin onboard and flew the ducted-fan VTOL ultralight aircraft by remote control in the first publicized glimpse of what the device might be capable of doing. Company officials said the remote-control flight was mandated by the rigid safety protocol that aims to make the Jetpack the "safest and easiest-to-fly aircraft" available. It's been more than two years since the device, which uses a high-revving two-stroke engine to power the fans, was demonstrated at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh. Although it has taken orders, the company is still not firmly predicting delivery dates for the $100,000 machine.

In fact, the company says it's working on a military version and the consumer edition will follow that. "It is in the final stages of research and development to meet early interest from the defence and civil defence sectors," the company says on its web site. It will be 2012 or later before the recreational version is ready.