Good Morning Mr. Jetson
It was 2005 and I was an excited 10 year old at a science convention in the States bouncing from one exciting new invention to the next when I heard the loudest screams of excitement I have ever heard in my life. I ran to see what I thought would be a horrific site of a mangled man whose machine malfunctioned and tore off an arm or something, to my disappointment. I instead found a large group of oddly dressed kids, most of who wore large round glasses, and laughed like they had someone pinching there noses. Basically the nerdiest people you could find. They were all gathered around a tall strong looking man who was wearing a tight black shirt and a helmet. I began to turn and walk away thinking it was just some new car that I could see when the crowd has passed when I heard what I could only imagine was a jet engine that must have somehow gotten into the building. I quickly turned to see the strong man from the crowd buzzing over my head with an honest to God jet pack strapped to his back! I stood there like the kid Free Willy watching as he passed over me in slow motion with my eyes glistening with pure excitement. It was in those few seconds that I fell head over heels in love with flying. I knew right then and there that I was going to do everything in my power to build my very own jet pack.
Today I am a mechanical engineering student at Dawson who has recently been accepted to Concordia University to further study engineering. For the past 3 years I have been building and competing in robotics competitions throughout Canada. Partnering that with the research I have been doing on personal flight, I believe that humans will be taking to the sky sooner than you might think. The only real questions you may have now are, how soon and why should I care?
For those who are wondering why they should care about personal flight, the simple answer is that it is extremely cool. What kid has never thought of being able to fly? Being able to buzz around with your own personal flight pack will probably be the closest to being Iron Man as you will probably get. Even if you look at it in a purely functional light it can easily be a great asset to the world. Imagine a scenario where a child gets lost in the woods and the search and rescue team and all the volunteer searchers were flying over the forest in their flight packs instead of walking through the forest calling her name. With a simple loud speaker or heat sensor attachment to the craft they would be able to find the little girl in no time. Or what if a tall building is on fire and there is just no ladder high enough to reach the people in the building. Instead of risking the lives of our brave fire men who would do all they can to fight their way up to the people we could simply have them fly up and bring them down a few at a time. Doesn’t that sound like a fantastic resource to have in an emergency?
Some of you might be thinking what about the environment? Won’t it be harmful to have thousands of little jets polluting the skies? Well actually they would be better for the environment as a whole. In the presentation given by Jaakko Rahja, Managing Director at MSC, we are shown how the cost of building and maintaining roads alone amount to nearly 35% of an average small city’s annual budget. For a city the size of Montreal and with bridges in as bad a condition as the Champlain it’s easy to see that this would be a major savings for us all. Not to mention the major impact on vegetation and ecosystems when roads are built. With the population flying overhead instead of rolling through the woods in toxic buckets we could lessen the effect on the natural environments between cities and reduce the cost of maintaining a city by millions. This would lead to lower taxes in the long run and no back breaking pot holes.
If you live in a big city then pot hole the size of your tires aren’t your only worry when you get in your car. In every town traffic is a major problem for everyone on the road. The old crumbling road ways just can’t keep up to the growing population and that means you have to wake up 2 hours to early just to get to work. Then when your busy day is finally over and you just want to get home so you can relax, you are once again stuck inhaling the burning fumes of the truck in front of you, inching forward in hopes to just get home in time to hug your kids goodnight before they have go to bed. What if I told you that all these traffic problems could be relieved by having the road ways in the air? Paths to get to places could be enlarged or made smaller depending on the time of day simply by allocating another “safe to fly zone” right next to a lane that is already there. The new “Air Roads” of the future could adapt easily to the change in traffic and population. You might be wondering how hard flying all these new crafts would be for all the already horrid drivers in the world. Well you can rest at ease knowing that even the primitive versions of these crafts found today are much safer than your average car. The Martin Jet pack company is one of the few in the world currently selling actual working “Jet Packs”. Their systems have taken almost every precaution in order to make their crafts ultra-safe. They not only link into the air traffic control system so that there is no risk of mid-air collisions with low flying planes but also have an astonishing amount of stabilizing technology so that even the worst driver could piolet their crafts. Not to mention the on board navigation systems would prevent you from smashing into another craft, ultimately saving hundreds of lives that would be lost in car accidents every year.
There is also the benefit that all the air crafts being used would have to be electric. According to the document released from NASA in 2013, (sub link 2 air navigation) “standard forms of fuel based flight do not have enough upward lift for long enough a time to be considered a plausible means of fueling any small “Jet Pack””. What this means is that all future forms of personal flight will most likely be electric. This will not only cut our emissions as a whole but truly open the door for clean energy research. Some inventors are already developing this new clean way to get around. In fact many developers predict that the technology put into batteries will surpass the energy output of a traditional gas engine in as little as 4 years, and be small enough to be used for long periods of time in jet packs in as little as 10. That’s a pretty thought isn’t it!
In my interview with Bombardier engine designer Vincent Dipetro I found some very interesting information that may further advance the idea that even big companies are beginning to take interest in personal flight. I asked him about some of the things he and his team of developers are working on and though he was reluctant to tell me specifically what they were working on for confidentiality reasons he did say some enlightening things. He spoke of maybe “one day within one or two years having a new type of electric motor to fly small planes”. This led me to ask him his opinion of the possibility of personal flight to which he answered with,” I wouldn’t be surprised if I was even able to take one for a spin before I retired”. After a bit more pestering I got him to indirectly mention how what he is working on could potentially be used to create personal flight, though he strongly avoided that particular question. I might not be able to directly say that these large companies think it could be a profitable area to expand, but I’m sure they will find a way if there is enough of a demand for it.
The world is an exciting place with hundreds of new ideas and incredible new gadgets coming out onto the market every day. Most of them fail but there are those few that catch the public’s imagination in a way that reminds them of that one special dream they had as a kid looking up at the sky. With everything I have found over the years I know for a fact that there are a lot of people out there who share my dream of one day feeling the soft embrace of a cloud in the sky, free from the hands of any expensive airline company. Soon the efforts of people like me will make that dream a reality for every one and at the same time make the world a little better, cleaner, and safer for everyone.