There’s a new player in the race to commercialize flying VTOL cars. From the makers of the world’s first jet turbine backpack, David Mayman and Nelson Tyler are planning on unveiling their 12-prop single-seat commuter VTOL.
From Jetpack to VTOL Aviation
With projects like a six-turbine JB-11 jetpack and an all-electric JB-12 jetpack already in development, Jetpack Aviation (JPA) is making some noise in the VTOL aviation industry that includes Larry Paige’s Zee Aero, Airbus’ Vahana Project, UBER’s Elevate Program, and the impressive EHang 184 prototype.
With coaxially mounted double props on the end of the six arms, JPA’s VTOL flies 6.5 feet (2 meters) off the ground and uses a small generator to boost its flight time from 20 minutes to up to an hour. In a recent interview with New Atlas, CEO and chief pilot Mayman discussed JPA’s concept:
“We’re looking at designing an extended-range electric car with a generator the size of a coke can that can produce a lot of power.”
Jetpack Aviation’s VTOL Concept
Focusing on designing a practical form of transport, Mayman wants to use the space above major highway arteries. “The 405 in L.A. has plenty of airspace above it – that space needs to be used,” he said. If you include the latest in lithium-ion battery tech, multi-rotor aerodynamics, motions sensors, GPS flying software and safety innovation, Mayman predicts a $1 million price tag for his prototype. “For 10 grand you could get something together if you were crazy enough to fly the thing,” he said during his New Atlas interview.
The California-based Jetpack Aviation is known for its JB-9 and JB-10 jet packs that have been tested all across the U.S. and Europe. Already working alongside the U.S. military, JPA’s jetpacks fly under battery power for five minutes at a time. Now the company hopes to incorporate some of its jetpack engineering into its VTOL concept.
Battery Storage Density Issues
With battery storage density an issue for all, JPA has opted for the multi-rotor design – which is a smaller, wingless VTOL topping out at 90 mph; whereas the Joby, Airbus, and Zee Aero focus on more powerful winged propulsion reaching speeds of 300 mph. Jetpack Aviation is set to start building its first prototype six months from now. The company may time advancements in battery technology perfectly. “Right now, battery storage density needs to be higher than 200-odd Watt hours per kilogram,” Mayman said. “It needs to be more like 400 Watt hours.”
Pilot Safety Concerns
Like most companies with images of our skies filled with VTOL flying taxis, pilot safety and FAA regulations are major obstacles standing in the way of actual passenger flight. Citing that most of the pilot safety will be in the form of ballistic parachutes, Mayman feels as if everyone is juggling with how to best land VTOL’s safely. “Parachutes are only effective at certain heights and it also depends on horizontal velocity.”
Whether it’s Uber’s recently released 98-page White Paper outlining its “Uber Elevate” flying car plan or Airbus’ “Project Vahana” – an all-electric VTOL taking off from building tops – transportation is poised for big changes in the next two decades. However, launching a flying car is far from reality. All companies interested in entering the VTOL market need to work together to get FAA approvals.
Thankfully, they have three non-profit organizations (ASTM International, The Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics, and GAMA) working to establish precedent around autonomous flying drones and VTOL’s. Instead of relying on venture capital dollars to spur an industry, it may be better to build lasting relationships with regulatory non-profits. For they seem to have a pulse on FAA requirements.