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Personal jetpacks and solar-powered ships

Kiwis demonstrate how to save and waste fuel

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In a weekend of contradictions, New Zealanders have demonstrated technologies showing off the best and worst in fuel efficiency: a petrol powered personal jetpack joined the mile-high club, while a solar-powered ship made an unassisted trip from Monaco to Brisbane.

A crash test dummy has returned unharmed after riding a Martin Aircraft Company personal jetpack to a claimed 5,000 feet. At the end of the test flight for the New Zealand-built Jetsons device, a parachute brought the dummy back to the ground without damage.

Martin Aircraft, basking in the turnaround from ridicule and skepticism to more favourable coverage, now says it is seeking investors for further development of the device towards commercialization, which the company optimistically hopes could be within 18 months.

With more than NZ$12 million already spent bringing the device to last weekend’s unmanned flight, as much as NZ$8 million more is needed to bring it to market. It claims an ascent rate of 1,000 feet per minute and carrying capacity of around 120kg.

In case the idea of a petrol-powered personal jetpack with just half-an-hour’s flight time looks like an extravagant way to burn both oil and money (Martin expects the commercial units to cost around NZ$100,000), the company cites search-and-rescue, supply, and border observation applications for the unit.

The New Zealand Herald has an edited video of the ten-minute flight here.

Meanwhile, a Kiwi-designed solar-powered boat, Turanor Planetsolar, made landfall in Queensland eight months after setting out from Monaco. The boat is seeking to complete an east-to-west navigation without calling on any fuel source other than the sun.

Its 500 square metres-plus solar modules supply an engine consuming 20 kW on average. While the boat needs to take it easy in overcast weather, it claims a range of 200 km per day in favourable charging conditions.

Constructed by the Knierim Yacht Club in German city Kiel, the 31-metre vessel is following what’s called the “English conditions” for a circumnavigation, which include two crossings of the equator, and matching its southerly trip to the northern latitude of the starting point.

So far, the Turanor Planetsolar claims to have made the fastest Atlantic crossing by a solar-powered vessel, and the longest trip made under solar power alone.

From Australia, its itinerary includes two China stopovers, Singapore, India, the Emirates, returning to Monaco via the Suez Canal. ®

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