Sunday, March 1

#9 - the reality of jetpacks

It is 2010, and the dream of a safe, reliable, compact jetpack has finally become a reality. A small but capable overseas firm has developed and tested such a device and is set to begin marketing and selling the jetpacks in the U.S. and Europe for $650,000 USD.

Because of the inherent risks and challenges posed by the use of jetpacks as a form of transportation, it will be necessary for the U.S. government to regulate the burgeoning industry.

Though a relative unknown inside the beltway, because of your technical expertise, organizational skills, and imaginative approach to problem solving, the Obama administration has tabbed you to serve as the new "jetpack czar". It will be your responsibility to make recommendations as to the regulations that should be in place when the jetpacks are sold.

Will the jetpack become a fringe vehicle like the Segway, or will it see wider use? Will anyone with the cash be able to purchase and use the device? How will you address safety concerns? These are some of the questions you will need to answer. What are potential planks of your jetpack policy platform?


HeatherR64 said...

The problem with this is that I'm NOT actually qualified for this in any way. I also think there would be other technical advances made before this that would perhaps facilitate it more - on Futurama (and probably the Jetsons, but I don't really remember), there are highways somehow labeled in the atmosphere for crafts to follow. This would obviously be necessary to avoid collisions. I imagine a licensing program would also be necessary. Fuel would be another concern. Also, I'm guessing these are not going to run quietly, so noise ordinances might come into play. Environmentalists may also be worried about bird populations, but, again, not sure what the interaction would really be...Looks like I could say quite a lot here after all...

Evan said...

Firstly, I imagine that travel in which only your body is moved (as opposed to a large heavy vehicle in addition) will likely be more efficient (especially in long trips, if you're able to achieve significant altitude to lower air pressure and thus air resistance). Yes, I'm being optimistic. But need I remind you: Jetpacks.

Secondly, I imagine that the prohibitively high cost doesn't represent the actual cost of production, and might have significant markup for early adopters, much in the same way the first iPhone was 300% the cost of the second.

I see the problem with the Segway being that, for the cost, it doesn't provide that much advantage over walking. I walk probably 4mph normally, 5mph when the train is coming. The top speed for the Segway, if I recall correctly, is around 12mph? My bike can do that for a lot less than the thousand-dollar pricetag, and I don't have to charge it. My bike cannot, however, fly at jet-speeds.

I am concerned about the fueling mechanism for these jetpacks, and am hesitant to endorse something that might increase fossil-fuel reliance, but given everything thus far, I'd argue that the jetpack should be subsidized to bring its cost down to be competitive with at least high-end automobiles.

Safety concerns will be addressed by requiring mandatory liability coverage. As Jetpack Czar, I expect a kickback from Progressive and Nationwide.

Holly said...

I noticed on your facebook that you were a fellow blogger, and after taking a peek, I must say this is pretty amazing : ). I wish I had prompts like these for my students' journal activities. Maybe I'd get better responses than ten lines of "I don't understand why we have to write about this but I am going to keep writing because I want to get 10 lines in order to get an A."

And by the way, I don't know about the marketing/safety concern/really anything having to do with technology side of things, but I do know that if these came out, I would find any way possible to procure one for myself!

Joe said...

I would definitely want it to receive widespread use. Anything that would eliminate gridlock on our nation's roadways (therefore improving the quality of our air and reducing the threat of global warming) is a good thing. Plus, it would cut down on commute time and allow people to spend more time pursuing their hobbies and spending time with their families.

Anyone with cash could buy it, as long as they completed a jetpack safety course similar to the one done by drivers. You'd have to be a certain age and you'd have to get re-licensed every 5 years or so.

Of course, there would be some restricted areas (i.e. you couldn't fly over a stadium during a game, etc) and you wouldn't be allowed to go within a certain distance of aircraft and airports.

I would want the jetpack, as much as possible, to be fueled by solar power, wind power, and other types of alternative energy. Ideally, they would be powered by battery packs that would recharge using solar power.

Matt said...

I guess there aren't a lot of jetpack wonks out there.

I'll admit that this week's question was sorta last minute and asked a lot from the readers. Though I am very fond of the concept of the jetpack, it's hard for me to imagine how lots of jetpacks could be integrated into society and I wondered if anyone else was open to considering the potential obstacles.

A year or two ago I read a book about the history of guys who would build and try their own flying suits. The types of people who jumped off buildings with homemade wings. I guess these days, they do have pretty decent suits that really slow one's rate of descent (I think the book said you could achieve a 45 degree fall). Anyhow, relating this back to the question, anyone can buy these suits from the company, as long as you have logged a certain number of jumps from a plane. So I agree with Joe, there'd have to be a lot of required training for jetpack use to be safely enacted.

And I did think of the Jetsons when writing the question (with regards to traffic "lanes"). I think altitude would be a major policy concern. You'd have to keep jetpack cadets safely above buildings, trees, and power lines, but low enough that they wouldn't interfere with planes.

Derek Timothy said...

As Jetpack Czar, I would demand that the largest studio in Hollywood immediately set out to create the biggest summer blockbuster of the year, dramatizing the story of the Jetpack's invention:

The Rocketeer 2: Joshua Jesty's Mission Of Peace.

Amy said...

I don't know if I like the idea of having this on the market. Call me untrustworthy, but I think that people will buy them for the wrong reasons (militaristic/aggressive).

I suppose if we has a jetpack-ed policing unit you could handle some of this, but it seems like quite a monetary burden on the police dept to be able to outfit and entire unit even before the first individual buys a unit themselves.

I'unno maybe I'm being 'Debbie Downer' but it's certainly something to consider.