The electric “jetpack”, dubbed SkyPack, is not yet in its final form, but its first prototype has been successfully tested. The Jet Suit from rocket backpack developer Gravity Industries is increasingly popping up to prove its effectiveness in special circumstances, such as during military operations or rescue work. Its application in these situations is still being tested with the help of the company’s founder and chief test pilot, Richard Browning, but experience so far suggests that the single-person transport vehicle could be a real option for special operations, so much so that a British air ambulance service will start testing the Jet Suit in the field with its own pilots this summer.
The biggest advantage of the rocket backpack is that it can be used on virtually any terrain, allowing it to move much faster, and therefore for jobs that require a quick response or involve difficult terrain, it may be more suitable than ground vehicles. There are, however, drawbacks to flying with a rocket pack: apart from the difficulty of manoeuvring it, this is mainly due to its fuel consumption, which can deplete the tank in just a few minutes of operation.
The Gravity Industries Mk2 jetpack, an earlier version of the now improved rocket pack, could hold about 20 litres of fuel, which would give you about four minutes of flight, and the newer models that have appeared since then have a fuel consumption of around 3-4 litres per minute. As we wrote in our previous article, the Jet Suit runs on diesel or aviation fuel, which makes the rocket backpack a particularly expensive form of transport.
However, the cost of fuel is not a problem for another type of jetpack (although this is not an accurate description, given its technology): the electric “rocket backpack” is powered by rotors rather than gas turbines, which means it can be used as a small, portable eVTOL for one person. Apart from the CopterPack, which is defined by the manufacturer as an electric helicopter backpack, the SkyPack is another similar model under construction, the latter being produced by Ascend Dynamics in the US. The company’s founder, Daniel Gant, started building a rudimentary prototype in 2020 to test the rotor solution, but the first version has not yet been ready for flight.
Later, a model was produced that has already demonstrated the viability of the design, based on a combination of 12 rotors at different angles of inclination and 12 motors of 7 kW powering them. At first sight, the structure seems somewhat dangerous for the wearer, as the rotor blades at the ends of the three arms are located quite close to the pilot’s head, but the final version will also be equipped with protective covers around the rotors to allow safe use. The SkyPack’s prototype V1 without protective equipment has made its first test flight without a human pilot for safety reasons, and the attached dummy, named Mitchell Gant, had to use a stabilising wooden frame for the test due to its light weight and the balancing of the device, but in the future this accessory will not be part of the flying backpack.
The SkyPack V2, the next prototype, will be slightly heavier than the current model and will be able to lift a 90 kg person into the air, but the lithium-ion battery life will also remain at two minutes, as with the V1. It is not yet known when the version that is now suitable for human use will be ready, as the company is still raising funds through community-funded projects, but it is planned to start selling the SkyPack as the third step after that.
The user model will also have a built-in generator, allowing it to cover distances of up to half an hour, and will weigh much less thanks to the carbon fibre material, but will also be able to carry more weight and, according to the description, will have a self-driving flight mode.