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Meet the Jetsons: Working jetpacks have arrived

The future may have just arrived, for those who are willing to pay for it.

New Zealand authorities have cleared a jetpack designed by the Martin Aircraft Company to carry a pilot, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

The jetpack can reach speeds of just under 45 mph and an altitude of a little over half a mile. The Martin Company has been issued an experimental flight permit by the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority and is expected to be on the market in 2015, although a version meant for government and emergency agencies will likely be released earlier.

Martin CEO Peter Coker said the flight permit is a significant development in bringing the jetpack to market.

“For us it’s a very important step because it moves it out of what I call a dream into something which I believe we’re now in a position to commercialize and take forward very quickly,” he said.

The jetpack is the result of years of development by inventor Glenn Martin. It uses a propulsion system to keep airborne and features a ballistic parachute, roll cage structure and shock-absorbing undercarriage for safety, according to the company’s website.

“Originally designed with the leisure market in mind, the Martin Jetpack has found strong demand from a wide range of markets, including military, civil defence and recreation,” the website says.

The jetpack runs on gasoline “mixed with a small amount of 2-stroke oil.” The flight-control system is computer-controlled and stabilized. Potential pilots will be introduced to the system with a flight simulator.

The price for the jetpack has not been set, according to the company, but is targeted at about $100,000 for the recreational version. While the jetpack is currently restricted to non-urban airspace in New Zealand, the company envisions a day when jetpacks are the new normal.

“While there are a number of barriers to this presently, it is not inconceivable that at some stage in the future commuting via jetpack may become a reality,” the company said. “The FAA Highways in the Sky project is being developed to provide flight paths for this.”

Whether a pilot’s license will be required depends on the country, and American authorities are currently dealing with a different jetpack issue. Hawaiian officials are questioning the safety of a jetpack that uses pumped water to propel people into the air, the Associated Press reports.

Egged on by YouTube videos that show thrill-seekers flying through the air with the help of the devices, people are queuing in Hawaii and now San Diego, Key West, Fla., and Cancun, Mexico, to give flight a try.

Authorities question whether the jetpacks are safe and the potential effects on ocean life.

Contact Stephanie Grimes at sgrimes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @steph_grimes on Twitter.

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