Good news for anyone whose watched the speeder bike chase through Endor in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi and said, “I want one of those!” David Mayman of Jetpack Aviation, the inventor of the world’s first actual working personal jetpack, tells Futurism that he’s created the world’s first “flying motorcycle” that will use jet thrust engines and can top out at speeds of 480 mph. Which means that it’s only a matter of time until you’ll be zipping through the forests, dodging fallen logs, homemade traps, and the occasional green lightsaber (Mayman hasn’t promised lightsabers. Yet).
According to Mayman, his speeder bike will eventually be self-fueling. Right now, the bike can run on diesel, jet fuel, and kerosene. But he’s hoping to partner with Prometheus Fuels, a startup that claims to be able to convert carbon dioxide in the air into gasoline. For real. So far, Prometheus hasn’t launched, but with $1.5 billion in funding, including $12.5 million from BMW, it won’t be long until your speeder will be, as Mayman says, “net carbon zero.”
Currently, plans are for Mayman’s speeder to be sold to the military for use in rescue operations, bringing supplies to hurricane-ravaged areas, or protecting a bunker protecting the fully operational Death Star’s force field’s controls from a ragtag crew of rebels and Ewoks.
JetPack Aviation currently has two working prototypes, but with speeds topping out at four times faster than a Cessna aircraft, it’s going to be a while until the government is going to allow anyone to pilot it as anything other than a drone. As he told Futurism:
“It’ll have a seat and flight controls. It won’t be piloted at first. I’d love to, but the FAA has a pretty strict process. As a commercial aviator I need to take that seriously. It’ll be either fully autonomously making its own decisions or remote-flown by a pilot. That could be with VR goggles or just watching the aircraft.”
But what about those of us who want a Luke Skywalker-style land speeder that we could use to cruise with our R2 droid and that crazy old hermit Ben Kenobi? Good news, Mayman has long-term plans for that:
“There will be four or five seat vehicles. Just as there are SUVs that can carry several people, we’ll have the same kind in the sky at some point. We’ll have big people haulers. They’ll do intra-city routes pretty well. A downtown route will be highly sensitive because these things are not quiet no matter what anyone tells you. Any aircraft that creates thrust makes noise.
Also, how do we fly safely over people when we’re transiting? What’s the public perception? Are you ready to jump into a 5-person vehicle without a pilot and launch off a 50-foot building tomorrow?”
Mayman thinks it won’t be long until his speeder bikes go into production. As he says, “I think we’re going to look at certification toward end of next year. Certification can take six months to a year, then after that go into production.”
And once we get land cruisers, hopefully the next step will be turning personal Death Stars into the next RV camping experience.