Dubai's firefighters could one day use jetpacks to tackle blazes in high-rise buildings. The oil-rich emirate signed a contract this week with the Martin Aircraft Company to purchase 20 jetpacks and two training simulators for the Dubai Civil Defense service (DSD). The jetpacks are intended to be used in a "first-responder role," said Lt Col Ali Hassan Almutawa of the DSD, who said they would be particularly useful for emergencies in the city's ever-growing number of skyscrapers.
"Sometimes we have challenges or difficulties to reach the top floors of those buildings. The [jetpacks] can go into confined spaces to size-up the situation. We are going to modify them with thermal imaging cameras," Almutawa told BBC News. He added that the DSD would be experimenting with firefighters who would tow a "mule train" of uncrewed jetpacks behind them during rescues. He said: "Rescue and firefighting, we see these as the main roles at first. But there could be many other roles."
Dubai's Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum visits the jetpack stand at the Dubai Airshow. (Image credit: Martin Aircraft Company)
The jetpacks in question are built by the Martin Aircraft Company and aren't quite as compact or maneuverable as we might expect from the long and imaginative history of the device. Rather than jets, the Martin Jetpacks uses twin ducted fans powered by a V4 engine. Their technical specs are impressive: they can fly up to 3,000 feet high at speeds of up to 74 kmph, and have a range of 30 to 50 kilometers or around 30 minutes of flight. However, like many other players in the jetpack industry, their production schedule has been hit by delays and their price is a challenge too: $150,000 per unit is the company's current estimation.
Thankfully for the New Zealand-based Martin Aircraft, this hasn't deterred the oil-rich Dubai. After all, this is a city that owns a fleet of police supercars including a $1.5 million Bugatti Veyron and a $1.8 million Aston Martin One-77. We can't imagine what's next for Dubai's authorities — perhaps hiring the Jetman as a pizza delivery guy?