China tech firm gets big lift with jetpack orders
IT IS the stuff of kids' cartoons - a jetpack that you strap onto your back like a schoolbag, and with a push of a button... whoosh, off you go zooming about in the sky.
A Chinese company has helped to turn this animated pipe dream into reality.
KuangChi Science, a high-tech startup, is taking off with the Martin Jetpack, the world's first practical and commercial jetpack.
It comes with a price tag of two million yuan (S$415,000).
Already, the company has received 200 orders for its cutting-edge invention.
"Our buyers are from all over the world," said Zhang Yangyang, chief executive of the company.
"For example, a rescue team in Dubai ordered about 30 units because the jetpack is easier to operate than helicopters in a city full of skyscrapers."
The device made its debut in China in December, with a short flight over a lake watched by more than 2,000 people.
The jetpack is powered by a gasoline engine that drives twin ducted fans, which produce sufficient thrust to lift the aircraft and a pilot, and to enable sustained flight.
It can operate close to or between buildings, near trees and in confined spaces that other larger aircraft would typically have problems accessing.
The jetpack can carry commercial payloads of up to 120kg with a maximum flying time of 45 minutes at a top speed of 80kmh.
KuangChi is the largest shareholder of the Martin Aircraft, the maker of the jetpack, based in New Zealand.
The innovative aircraft is now mainly produced in New Zealand but Mr Zhang said the firm will transfer the entire manufacturing to China in the future.
The startup was established by five students who came back to China after studying abroad, said Mr Zhang.
"In the beginning, almost everyone was very sceptical of the concept of the personal jetpack," he added.
"It was Shenzhen's recognition that makes our technological development and research possible," he noted.
The city in southern Guangdong province is billed as "China's Sillicon Valley" with its vibrant startup scene.
The team was brought into Shenzhen through the peacock campaign, a plan launched by the Shenzhen Science and Technology Innovation Commission to attract talent in the field of technology.
The plan has played a key role in gearing up the city to develop into a key zone for innovation and the development of modern services in the region.
Since 2011, the commission has lured 64 "peacock" teams to the city, most of which have now grown into striking high-tech enterprises.
Examples include DJI Innovation Technology, now a leader in manufacturing drones such as the flying camera Phantom.
Another success is Royole which has made the world's thinnest, bendable full-colour screen display.
CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK