Dubai firefighters turn to jetpacks for firefighting

The delivery of 20 jetpacks and two simulators are expected in early 2016, making Dubai the first place to use jetpack technology in the fire service


Khaleej Times

DUBAI — In the near-future, Dubai Civil Defence officers may be zooming in on to the scene of building fires using futuristic personal jetpacks.

Designed by New Zealand-based Martin Aircraft Company, the jet-packs can be operated by a single pilot for 30 minutes at ranges of between 30 and 50 kilometres at altitudes of up to 3,000 feet.

The pilot stands on a platform in a 'pilot module' between two propeller engines, which look like large versions of those commonly found on civilian drones.

On Tuesday, Dubai Civil Defence signed a memorandum of understanding with Martin Aircraft for the intended future delivery of jetpacks and jetpack simulators for training, as well as spare parts and pilot and engineer training.

First delivery of the initial tranche of 20 jetpacks and two simulators are expected in early 2016 - making Dubai the first place in the world to incorporate jetpack technologies in the emergency response network.

According to Civil Defence officials, Dubai is currently conducting studies to see how many additional jetpacks will be needed in the future.

Lieutenant Colonel Ali Hassan Almutawa, Director of Civil Defence's Operations Department, explained to Khaleej Times that the jetpacks will allow Civil Defence officers to respond quickly to emergencies in Dubai's many tall buildings.

"Dubai is leading the world in high-rises, and sometimes we have challenges or difficulties reaching those buildings. This airplane will help us size up a situation," he said. "We are going to modify it with thermal imaging cameras for that." "Sometimes we also find it difficult to communicate with people in those high-rises, especially when people are panicking from windows or balconies," Lt. Col. Almutawa added.

"With the jetpack we can go there and communicate physically with them and give them instructions." Additionally, Lt. Col Almutawa noted that the jetpack will also be used to move heavy rescue equipment in emergency situations or even to evacuate people.

"In an emergency situation, we can't use the elevators and have to depend on firefighters physically climbing ladders. With this we can lift equipment for our firefighters," he said. "There will now be a new generation of firefighters with this." Martin Aircraft Company CEO and General Manager Peter Coker said that the aircraft is "extremely easy" to operate, meaning that emergency response crews can be quickly trained to operate them.

"It's been designed that way. It's got a fly-by-wire system that has a sort of flight computer, so the aircraft is very stable," he said.

"If you let go of everything, the aircraft will come to a hover."

Coker added the jetpacks will eventually be used for a variety of other purposes and will even be available to the general public.

"Our second group of customers will be around the commercial side, which is farming, agriculture and the oil and gas industry," he said, adding that recreational use will not be far behind.

"In a few years they will likely be used by customers in a very controlled environment, and we'll probably have situations in which we create clubs for people to go and fly the jetpacks."

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