Jetpack Aviation accelerates with 2nd-gen flying motorcycle tests

Speeder’s fast, long range, easily deployed and modular architecture has received significant interest from the US Department of Defense Jetpack Aviation.

A jet pack, rocket belt or rocket pack is a rear-facing device that uses gas or liquid jets to propel the wearer through the air.

JPA has been creating VTOL aircraft for over 10 years and is the undisputed leader in turbine powered, micro VTOLs.  Located in Ventura, north of Los Angeles, our mechanical, electrical / computer and flight systems engineers have years of experience in designing, prototyping and building VTOL aircraft.

According to David Meyman of Jetpack Aviation, his company’s amazing work on jetpacks and flying motorcycles seems to be progressing rapidly and it is always fascinating and enlightening to know what’s new on the workshop bench.

While the Jetpack business continues to progress with some fun developments in the pipeline, the company is now devoting nearly 70 percent of its time and energy to its Speeder Air Utility Vehicle.  The Speeder is a completely unique and modular aircraft with a top speed of over 1,000 miles.  It can be configured as a manned flying motorcycle, an unmanned ultra-fast cargo drone, a fire station or a manned “pocket F-35” that can approach the speed of sound.  It can fly like a jet-powered quadcopter or clip on detachable wings for high-speed, long-range operations.

Naturally, US defense agencies are very interested, and Speeder is one of the top candidates for the US Air Force AFWERX High-Speed โ€‹โ€‹VTOL program.  Although the city’s inner transportation is very loud, its roaring jet engines are perfect for some civilian operations.

The Jetpack team is completing tethered flight tests on the first Speeder Prototype, a jet-powered drone known as the P1, covered with scaffolding that looks like it can lift flying clothes.  Since then, it has been replaced by a smaller, but still industrial-looking P1.5 prototype that will soon fly tether.

(JPA’s Moorpark test facility, the P1.5 prototype that has been largely removed in Jetpack Aviation)

In just a few months, the P2 will actually start to look like a flying motorcycle going into production.  This is the prototype that will eventually launch manned flight tests and high speed forward flight tests.  Like a production aircraft, it is more modular – the JPA team is able to switch from a pilot version of a motorcycle to a heavy-lift cargo carrier.

And it can handle low speeds and low spacing directly from the back of the truck, but the Speeder is designed to take on a range of different wing options that can be easily installed and swapped in the field.  These can unlock speeds over 400 mph (644 km / h), as well as some exceptional range statistics.  The team begins to test the small, low-drag wing configuration with the P2.

If that and many other side projects are not enough to keep the JPA team busy, Mayman wants to move from turbojets delivered to a single-engine turbofan design using a cooler, quieter, more efficient ducted thrust.  Dreaming of a way to approach a human speedster with sound speed.


( Speeder is incredibly portable for high-speed, long-range manned aircraft jetpack aviation)

In the P1.5 prototype Speeder

The P1.5 uses exactly the same control systems, the same jetavators (thrust-vector extensions at the end of engines that serve as control surfaces), just like the P1 you saw in July.  It’s got a smaller chassis, a smaller fuel tank, because the whole thing is lighter.  We have dropped additional scaffolding because we no longer need the side and front tether lines;  We went with the tether line on the plane.  We have also changed the way we display engines for foreign material remnants without starving the engines for air.

The courage of the flight control system is the same, but now the differential GPS is being used, which means it has to have a ground station and a satellite link.  And it offers amazing resolution for height and position grip.

You can do the same thing with a $ 500 DJI drone all day.  But to do this with jets instead of instantaneous electric propellers … all electronics, all aircraft control systems had to be built from scratch.  It’s a whole different ball game.

This is absolutely insane, the amount of power we have in the size of a motorcycle, maybe six inches wide.  There is no direct way to equate horsepower and thrust, but talking to engine makers, the Speeder can potentially produce six or seven thousand horsepower.  It is very stable on hover, but when those engines are half-gimbal, it gets out of there!

So David Mayman says they are pursuing tether tests with P1.5 at Moorpark and are awaiting the return of our clinical certification documents from the FAA, which allows them to be off-tether and much larger.  Test flight.  They took up space in the desert, about an hour and a half drive from LA, which is very convenient from the workshop.

Thatโ€™s about 25 miles to 8 miles, which is big enough for them to be able to do conversion tests.  They are launching conversion tests with P2, not with P1.5.  If they have a problem or a quick unplanned disassembly, it is easier to rebuild P2 than P1.5.  It is designed for production;  Easy to build, easy to maintain.  And he’s building two of them.

They want to keep P1.5, which is an excellent test.  One thing they still want to do with P1.5 is to start moving the dummy load dynamically during flight, maybe a servo or linear actuator or whatever.  They want to mimic footage of moving goods or see what happens if the rider tries to mimic the motorcycle and the corners.  The flight system is amazingly good at dealing with changes in weight, but they haven’t tested it in a dynamic way yet.

In the upcoming P2 prototype Speeder

P2 is a completely different machine.  By the end of March we were ready for a test flight.  Again, this is short.  He has some extra hand grips, the tether hold from the top goes away.  For an aircraft control system, the hardware is pretty much the same, but the software is completely new.

Jetavaters is a new design, so it takes some testing.  We have completely redesigned the gimbal mounts that turn the engines back and forth.  And in terms of looks, the whole frame has been redesigned.  The P2, if you will, looks more like a motorcycle than a testbed.  It almost looks like a production plane.

Landing gear, no doubt, is the hardest thing to design in this entire project.  It should be lightweight.  It has to be strong.  Ideally it should be withdrawn.  It should be the right height – used in dual modes, cargo and manpower.  So if it’s human, anyone should be able to get it.  But when you start the engines it can’t sit too low.

They make a lot of efforts to create an intuitive, motorcycle-like ride experience

They found it smart enough to turn engines on startup.  It disposes of all foreign matter and garbage on the ground and sucks clean air.  This completely reduces the heat storage under the machine.  And when you get to takeoff power, it’s a concerted effort: the engines spool up and the angle back at the same time.

The whole thing is designed to be modular to various cargo or manned missions.  We have two concepts around pilot positioning.  Someone is leaning forward as if you were on a motorcycle, in which case you have the fairing and you limit the speed to 200, 250 miles per hour, depending on the huge drag you get – just like you do on a motorcycle.  The turbulence you create behind your back on a motorcycle is dramatic.

We make a lot of efforts to create an intuitive, motorcycle-like ride experience.  For example, they are configuring a flight controller, which results in a better bank turn than a flat yaw turn.

Another pilot option is that you sleep as a Formula One style vehicle.  It has great range and speed, but we haven’t sampled it yet.  And for freight, we use a softer, more aerodynamic cargo structure.  Good lift in drag, very teary design.  There we are plotting a maximum speed of 400 miles per hour.

The first pilot position we test with the P2 sits next to you on a motorcycle.  The idea is that you can pull out the Pilot Piece and put the cargo bed down very easily.  The individuals we are talking about in DOD like the idea of โ€‹โ€‹having some field-to-function, where one or a maximum of two people can easily change the configuration.  Because it is flying through the wire, you are not introducing any mechanical connections or control systems, so to move from cargo configuration to pilot configuration, remove the cargo bed, place it on one side and then the pilot seat continues, the fair goes on.  Control systems are just amphenol;  You connect a large fat amphenol connector and you go off.

The Jetpack Aviation will display the P2 in the pilot configuration, first with the unmanned, and then with the pilot in the airplane and in the cargo configuration, and they will exhibit rapid exchange between the two.

( The modular speeder platform supports many different operating configurations)

In Speeder’s detachable multi-profile wing system

The wing low-drag, low-lift airfoil we are modeling at the moment is designed for high speed use.  This will probably start to produce a meaningful lift of 100 mph or more.  It is very small, eight square feet in total, and it only adds two feet to the width of the vehicle on each side.  They have a carbon spar box that runs through a fast body so that the wing clip can be turned on and off and there is a carbon box section that slides into the frame.

As Jetpack Aviation’s David Mayman put it, we have some potential customers in oil and gas, for example, they may be less concerned about speed than the military, and we may be more interested in going further than the original model.  They only spend enough money to drive helicopters to rigs to deliver parts that can weigh over 200 pounds.  Those two-way trips by helicopter can cost tens of thousands of dollars, and in some cases you are limited by the weather – if the air is higher than X or the visibility is low, they will not work.

This aircraft is part of the cost of a large twin-engine offshore service helicopter.  It can fly under any conditions, is not afraid of wind or heavy rain and can carry 200-pound payloads for several hundred miles throughout the day.

By himself, without wings, he is looking at a range of about 100 miles.  With these small, low-drag, high-speed wings, itโ€™s about 250 miles.  The extra endurance and range is literally a wing size factor.  He did a business space study two months ago that advised him to go 1,000 nautical miles with big wings.  Again, everything is modular and detachable depending on the mission.

One thing we like about the forward, motorcycle-style riding position is that it’s really easy to get yourself out.  You can have a parachute in the pilot and there is nothing to prevent the pilot from exiting the vehicle.  It’s very simple.  Once you are in a fully enclosed cockpit, you need to have high speed, the exit is more complicated.

When turning the speeder into a “Pocket F-35”

I love the Pocket F-35 concept.  My personal motto is to show that we can fly this speed with the person in it, at the speed of sound.  One day.  It won’t be tomorrow.  But then you have something vertically removable from a half car space, close to 3, 4, 500 miles to the speed of sound and then back down.  It is a science fiction at the moment, but it is a very realistic engineering dream, and it is definitely a concept that has generated a lot of interest in the US.

 “We all approach these projects for different reasons. No matter how business-oriented the business is, I personally want to build a Pocket F-35 as an engineer or entrepreneur,” David Mayman said.

The underlying framework is designed to accept a wide range of mission-specific modular attachments

The underlying framework is designed to accept a wide range of mission-specific modular attachments

In a potential move for turbofans

Another thing to mention is that we are starting to work with some big turbofan producers.  I’m really interested in whether we can move to a single engine turbofan instead of using distributed turbojets.  Most turbofan pressure comes from air coming from a large fan connected to a gas generator.  Can we do duct and vector thrust with the same, stationary engine as we do on Harrier jump jets?

We are going to our Series A fundraiser in the first half of this year.  I would like to put some of those funds to test the turbofan concept.  One of the advantages for us is that the specific fuel consumption is much better, using significantly less fuel for the massive amount of energy they produce.  And the time between overhauls – turbojets can get 300-400 hours, depending on operating environment, turbofans can last up to 6,000 hours

The other advantage is that they are much quieter and quieter and the exhaust gases are much cooler than turbojets.  It is a single unit, and it makes it easy to deal with in terms of maintenance and whatnot.  And think about the future, they are fully certified.  If we start moving with the FAA to a Part 23 certified aircraft, we need a certified engine.  We need to do that to start flying over cities.

( JetPack Aviation at the test site with David Mayman (left) JPA team members)

Mind you, our strategy is not around urban air mobility at this time.  There are plenty of players in the UAM space.  When you and I first met, maybe Joby and a couple of others there, what’s happening now, 300 companies or something?

The turbofan powered speeder is quieter than the current design and has a cooler exhaust.  It is small enough to allow for a ducting space and a three-foot long, 14-inch diameter engine, perhaps as large as a third, that will probably sit in front of you.  This has not been implemented yet, but we would like to direct some money along with ongoing flight testing.  There is plenty of work to do. โ€” David Mayman

Credits: David Mayman, / JetPack Aviation /

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