The California-based rocket backpack company has been developing the Speeder flying motorcycle for years, originally intended for military use and rescue missions, but now it has announced a recreational version of the vehicle, which the company expects to be available for purchase as early as 2023.
Unlike the dozens of air taxis being developed today, the Speeder takes to the skies using jet turbines rather than propellers – the same technology used in Jetpack Aviation’s rocket backpacks. While this is encouraging, as the manufacturer has already commercialised two such backpacks (the JB-10 and JB-11), it is undoubtedly a much bigger challenge to make the solution work reliably with a single engine.
One of the main problems cited is that while a jetpack can be balanced with the body, this would not be possible with a motorbike. JetPack Aviation claims to have solved this problem, and as the Speeder balances fully automatically, it will be no more difficult to control than a conventional motorbike. We can’t see this for ourselves yet, because despite all the claims, Jetpack Aviation has not yet released any videos of the Speeder.
According to the manufacturer, the aircraft engine will be so easy to handle that the more modest Ultralight (UVS) version will not even require a pilot’s licence to fly, just a short training course at Jetpack Aviation’s headquarters or one of their partner companies. The UVS model will theoretically be capable of flying at 96 km/h and can be refuelled with 19 litres of fuel. The Experimental (EVS) version will be much faster, capable of speeds of up to 240 km/h, but will require a pilot’s licence to operate.
According to information available on Jetpack Aviation’s website, the Speeder will be able to fly for 20-30 minutes at a time and climb up to 4.5 kilometres, although “they do not expect that most of their customers will need this”. The first production run of just 20 units is already available for pre-order on Jetpack Aviation’s website, with the total price starting at $695,000, according to the information provided.
It is possible, however, that the pilot’s licence alone will not be enough to allow us to go shopping in two years’ time with a flying motorbike, as the regulation of vehicles that can take off and land from a place and carry passengers is not clear in most countries. Concrete measures have already been taken in a few places, such as Korea, China and Los Angeles, but most air taxi manufacturers still expect commercial operations to start only in 2025 or beyond.
Jetpack Aviation is not the first company to think about developing flying engines: one of the first such vehicles was designed by Hungarians around 2015 under the name Flike Aero, but the plane, capable of speeds of up to 100 km/h, would have been propellers instead of turbines. The Flike Aero never flew, but its designers have moved on and are now working on a US Lift Aircraft Hexa air taxi, one of the most promising developments in the increasingly crowded field of eVTOLs. A few years ago, the Dubai police received some similar propeller-driven aircraft engines, but according to the information available, they have never been used in public spaces.