It is easy to talk about carbon fiber in terms of golf clubs and tennis rackets. Such tangible items are familiar enough that we have no trouble understanding just how important carbon fiber is to making things lightweight and strong. Talk about carbon fiber in relation to body suits and jet packs, and it is a whole new ballgame.
It turns out that carbon fiber is playing an especially vital role in the development of personal jet packs for winged flight. This strong but lightweight material is perfect for creating fixed wings deployed on everything from commercial airliners to military fighters. It is the perfect material for combining jet pack and winged vehicles.
Its potential was recently shown off by Jetman Dubai, a company formed out of one man’s dream to create a personal aircraft capable of flying a single user with space-age jet pack technology. Their invention is known as a jet wingpack. It combines the basic principles of a traditional jet pack and a modern wingsuit. The device was only made possible because of modern composite materials, says Salt Lake City’s Rock West Composites.
More Strength, Less Weight
One look at the Jetman device and you instantly know just how technologically advanced it is. The wing portion of the suit looks fairly impressive even from the ground. Moreover, the size of the wing clearly indicates – even if you know nothing about composites – that it cannot possibly be made of steel or aluminum. A pilot wouldn’t be able to handle it if it were.
Lo and behold, the wing is made from carbon fiber. Why? Because carbon fiber weighs one third the weight of a comparable amount of steel but offers four times the strength. Carbon fiber is also exponentially lighter and stronger than aluminum. You can make the same size wing with carbon fiber while drastically reducing weight without sacrificing strength or control.
Carbon fiber’s strength-to-weight ratio does more than just provide a wing that can be handled safely by a pilot. It also allows the pilot to take off from the ground, in a standing position. There is no need to take the pilot into the air with another aircraft and then launch from there.
How It All Works
Past attempts to achieve sustained flight with jet packs have failed for lack of wings. Jet packs alone simply cannot provide enough thrust to maintain high altitude flight at long distances. Introduce a wing and you change the dynamic. Introduce a wing and your jet pack can fly as high and as long as an airplane.
How does it all work? Through the same aeronautic principles that we apply to commercial aircraft. The Jetman device initiates liftoff via thrust provided by the jet pack engines. Once in the air, the wing takes over. Jet pack engines perform the same function as airplane engines – propelling the pilot forward through the air. Air circulating over and under the wing provides the necessary lift to keep pilot and wingsuit in the air.
It works so well that a recent test done in Dubai saw test pilot Vince Reffet achieve an altitude of 5,900 feet. The wing suit is also capable of speeds of up to 250 mph. An experienced pilot can hover as well as perform complicated aerial maneuvers, like loops for example.
The aerospace world should expect to see even greater things from Jetman Dubai. As the company learns more about mastering jet packs and carbon fiber wings, their single-person aircraft is only going to get better. Some of us cannot wait to see what they do next.