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In Brief

Jetpacks Get Regulators' Feathers Ruffled

jetpack
A early iteration of the Martin Jetpack. (Image credit: YouTube screengrab from Martin Aircraft)

The good news is: Your jetpack is almost ready for liftoff. That's the word from the folks at Martin Aircraft Co. of New Zealand, who plan to release a fully functioning jetpack within a year (though some purists claim it's really a big, heavy-duty fan and not the backpack-size jetpacks that remain the stuff of sci-fi dreams).

The bad news is: The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) of New Zealand has gotten wind of the Martin Aircraft's P12 jetpack's capabilities — it can fly at speeds of 50 mph (81 km/h) for about 30 minutes — and regulators aren't willing to overlook the potential for disaster, according to the Wall Street Journal.

"If you land in someone's paddock, you will always land on their prime sheep," Rex Kenny of the CAA told the Journal. (Sheep, you'll recall, are big business in New Zealand.) For the time being, authorities are considering regulating the jetpack like an ultralight aircraft, meaning pilots in New Zealand will have to be licensed. But in the United States, where 10 people have paid a deposit for the P12, no license is required for most ultralights — good news for all the Buzz Lightyear wannabes of America.

Marc Lallanilla
Marc Lallanilla has been a science writer and health editor at About.com and a producer with ABCNews.com. His freelance writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and TheWeek.com. Marc has a Master's degree in environmental planning from the University of California, Berkeley, and an undergraduate degree from the University of Texas at Austin.