The Future of Advanced Air Mobility

JetPack Commits to Running Speeder Utility VTOL Vehicle on "Fuel from Air"

JetPack Aviation is preparing to run its Speeder VTOL aircraft and “personal turbine” JetPacks with a new zero net carbon fuel. The company is partnering with Prometheus Fuels to tap its Titan Fuel Forge technology, which aims to “make fuel from air” by reclaiming atmospheric carbon through a proprietary process that strips carbon dioxide (CO2) molecules from the air and “energizes” them into hydrocarbons that can be made into any type of fuel.

The challenge with the “fuel from air” process is to be able to produce hydrocarbons at a scale that makes this approach economically viable. Prometheus Fuels believes it has met that challenge and says it expects to be selling regulator-approved gasoline for ground vehicles later this year in California, where both it and JetPack Aviation are based. The company says that it will be able to start supplying aviation fuel in 2022.

According to Prometheus, what it describes as zero net carbon jet fuel is expected to retail for around one cent less than the current cost of standard jet-A fuel. “Because our jet fuel is molecularly identical to fossil jet fuel, we can use the same storage and delivery infrastructure,” chief creative officer Amanda Martinez explained to FutureFlight.

JetPack recently finished an initial flight test program with a full-scale prototype of the Speeder, which will offer a payload of around 600 pounds, making it suitable for a variety of applications in which it operates autonomously or with a single person at the controls. The VTOL vehicle is designed to operate in and out of a footprint of just 10 by 10 feet on the ground and at speeds of up to 250 mph.

The company says that the vehicle would have a range of between 150 and 250 miles or flight endurance of 45 to 80 minutes. Range and endurance increase at higher forward speeds when there is an aerodynamic benefit from its winglets. 

According to the company’s founder and CEO, David Mayman, his team is preparing to start testing another prototype, designated P1.5, this summer, before advancing to a P2 prototype during the first quarter of 2022, and then a P3 pre-certification version by the end of next year. The scope of flight testing will be stepped up over this timeframe to include some elements of autonomous operations, such as see-and-avoid technology.

Initial applications for the Speeder are expected to be with the U.S. military, which has also evaluated its JetPack units. Units such as the Navy Special Forces are reportedly interested in the additional payload that the Speeder can give personnel. JetPack Aviation will seek military certification first and this might be completed around 2024. It also sees the vehicle being of use for emergency medical support and firefighting operations, and it has already signed a collaboration agreement with an undisclosed service provider in this field.

Mayman explained that JetPack has progressed so far with capital raised through a Series A funding round supported by various investors involved in tech groups including Tesla, SpaceX, and Skype. It has also had some support through research and development contracts issued by the U.S. Air Force’s Agility Prime program. The company is now looking for a larger test facility to allow it to expand the scope of flight trials.

According to Mayman, the current limits of battery technology and serial hybrid electric powertrains meant that it could not consider these propulsion options given the quite specific size and weight combination it feels will be imperative for the Speeder’s optimum missions. “Whether it’s the Department of Defense or a fire department, they want an aircraft that they can have with them at all times and don’t have to rely on a separate group to deploy,” he said. “They can take two of these aircraft where they are needed in a standard car trailer and deploy them where they are needed, rather than having to call in a much larger helicopter that would require seven to 10 times the footprint.”