Incredible technological advancement or incredible waste of money?
Dubai’s reputation for extravagance — with its Lamborghini police cars — has just reached new heights, both figuratively and literally. The city’s Directorate of Civil Defence recently signed a deal with Martin Aircrafts, a New Zealand company, to equip its firefighters with a fleet of 20 jetpacks and 2 training simulators. They could arrive as early as next year.
Not only will these jetpacks be able to lift up to 265 lbs., which will allow firefighters to transport medical equipment, they will also have the ability to lift off and fly vertically. Firefighters will be able to choose to send a pilot up in a jet pack or to send one up empty to rescue someone by controlling the machine remotely from the ground.
This technology has been in development for over 30 years. The jetpacks are made of carbon fibre and 3D-printed parts. Two 200-horsepower engines use fans to create the thrust to power the jetpacks. Rudders below the blades can be used to control direction. Because of their small size, they will be able to reach confined areas around buildings and trees that even helicopters cannot. They even include a parachute for emergency safety reasons.
The jetpacks have a maximum height of 3000 feet or about 277 stories, which is higher than the world’s tallest skyscraper, which just happens to be in Dubai. At a speed of 45 mph, it will take them about 45 seconds to reach this height. This equipment will make it possible for firefighters to rescue someone trapped in a fiery blaze at the top of a skyscraper where a ladder could not have reached.
With their flight duration of 30 minutes, firefighters will have time to evaluate a situation and take a look around with the equipment before deciding on a rescue strategy. There are also plans to modify them with thermal imaging cameras to further assist the pilots.
Peter Coker, managing director and CEO of Martin Aircraft Company, suggests that future applications could be found in farming, agriculture, and the oil and gas industry. Eventually he hopes to make them available for personal use.
In a statement released by the company, Lieutenant Colonel Ali Al Mutawa said: “[Dubai] has always been a world leader in adopting new technology to improve and save people’s lives. The introduction of Martin Jetpacks into our fleet of emergency response vehicles is another example of how Dubai leads the world.”
However, with a price tag of $250,000 per jetpack, it is hard to say when or if ever this technology will reach emergency response teams in the rest of the world. On the other hand, “jetpack-flying firefighter” sounds like a pretty great job title!
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