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Flying over Dubai with Jetpacks

Dubai already seems pretty futuristic on the ground, but what's it like in the air? As you'll soon see, it's almost like another planet. Yves Rossy (aka Jetman) and "protégé" Vince Reffet recently flew over the extravagant city in jetpacks, and their view was every bit as strange as you'd expect. The Burj Khalifa tower (above) resembles a sci-fi super weapon, while the artificial Palm Jumeirah archipelago sticks out from the coastline like a sore thumb. Will this airborne sightseeing trip get you booking a flight to the United Arab Emirates? Probably not, but it's worth a look if you're wondering what a ton of oil money will do to a desert landscape.

Jetman Yves Rossy has been taking his delta-winged jetpack out for brief jaunts at exotic locations around the globe for years. Each time, he learns a little more, and makes his flying machine a little more powerful. If you haven’t been paying attention, take a look at his most recent performance in this 4K video. Teaming up with his friend Vince Reffet, the pair carve the skies over the dramatic landscape of Dubai, and show the world just how far the jetmen have come:

This video should remove any doubt that the jetpack is here, and here to stay. The future of personal flight is not piston-popping two-strokes driving whirling ducted fans like the Martin jetpack, nor the peroxide powered steam puffs of the Bell’s 20-second rocket belt. The future is as we always knew it would be: turbine-powered, and prone like Superman, with wings to work the air.

Flying with a partner shows just how agile these machines really are. Yes, they still need help to get up in the air, and no, they still don’t land on their own without a parachute — but Rossy should get to all of that. For now, he is pushing the performance envelope just to see what they can do. That has actually meant making the wings a bit smaller in each new iteration of the jetpack so that they are more aerodynamic, and faster.

To actually take-off and land like a bird, bigger and more variable wings will probably be needed. To use your own legs as the landing gear (and therefore use slower approach speeds), the wings would probably need be to a little lighter, and even bigger still. For anyone that might be looking into the finer points of these issues, we offer one observation: the reason that Rossy has been the sole practitioner of his sport, is simply that until now, no one else has been technically, physically, and mentally capable of doing what he does.

The tiny turbines that make this flight possible have seen drastic performance improvements in recent times. When prices come down, it is likely that the next jetpack story may come from a dedicated DIY daredevil that got tired of his or her wingsuit. New technology to 3D metal print nearly every component used in these turbines has been developed both at Australia’s Monash University and at General Electric (although it is unlikely that high speed bearings can be manufactured this way, at least without extensive post-machining).

We should mention that machining turbine blades the old-fashioned way is about the hardest thing anyone would want to do in the fabricating business, at least starting from scratch. When someone comes up with a way to 3D print carbon fiber, or some similar material on larger scales, we might even print the wings too.

We may sound a little optimistic here with these jetpack dreams, but dreams seem be dying fast. We had previously warned that although the Aeromobile flying car looked like a great design, in flight it appeared unstable. Unfortunately we learned the other day that the Aeromobile has met disaster before meeting success. Hopefully the jetman and others like him can avoid that fate.

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