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Look, Even the World's Most Badass Jetpack Is Useless

It's loud, hot, impractical, and still totally cool.
May 17, 2014, 11:25pm
The pilot, post-flight. Image: Jason Koebler

Of all the technofuturistic things people are pissed about not having yet, jetpacks are right up there with hoverboards and flying cars. Difference is, we do have jetpacks, they’re just pretty lame considering how long we've been waiting for these things.

But, they’re still freakin’ jetpacks, and so this afternoon's demo flight instantly became the highlight of Smithsonian Magazine’s The Future is Here event.

Take a look at this thing, the most advanced jetpack in the entire world. It holds world speed records and is about to be used to break a record for the world’s highest jetpack flight. It can only fly for roughly 30 seconds at a time. Yeah, other jetpacks can fly for longer, but they look more like flying cars and are three times the size of a human.

That doesn't mean this one is any more useful. Just to demo it costs roughly 25 grand, according to CNN. It’s hard to control, can burn your hands if you're not careful. In fact, I could feel the heat coming off the tanks when I talked to him minutes afterwards. And it’s really, really loud. Like, loud enough that were fervently warned to wear earplugs.

Image: Jason Koebler

“Yeah, I’m not commuting in this,” the pilot (jetpack operator?) said afterward. And isn’t that what we all want? Or at least, you know, to whiz by old-school walking people on the ground? With this pack, you can do that, sure, but half a minute later you’ll be standing right back next to them, with two massive, empty metal gas tanks and an inability to walk through doors.

Image: Jason Koebler

And yet, we have them. We have jetpacks. We can fly them inside, even. In fact, we might even have to fly them inside—the Smithsonian apparently got permission from the Federal Aviation Administration to fly outside the Ronald Reagan Building, but then had to move back inside last minute because "it was too windy"—or maybe because the pilot didn’t feel like risking being shot down if he flew too high.

This isn't the future we asked for, but it's what we've got.