‘Weren’t we supposed to have jetpacks by now?’ That was the question a young biochemistry student, Glenn Martin, was asking with his friends one Friday evening in 1981 in the Captain Cook Tavern in Dunedin, New Zealand. Thousands of people must have had similar conversations at some time or another, but Glenn was the only one to get up the next day, go to the library, and start working on it. He devoted the rest of his life to turning the dream of a practical jetpack – ‘one of the coolest desires left to mankind’ – into a reality.
Over the next few decades, he encountered all the problems which had scuppered everyone who came before him: how to make one that could lift enough weight, be controlled by a single pilot, and fly for longer than the sixty seconds achieved by historical versions such as the Bell Rocketbelt.
He also encountered some unexpected problems, like the time his youngest son was in trouble at school and the teacher told Glenn and his wife that their son must have a vivid fantasy life, ‘because he believes you have a jetpack in your garage.’ As Glenn says, “we had to get her to sign a nondisclosure agreement.”
But he did it. In 2008 the Martin Jetpack was introduced to the world. Since then, it has featured in the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, GQ, been named one of Time Magazine’s Top Fifty Inventions of the year for 2010, and seen Glenn feature on Jay Leno and David Letterman. His company, the Martin Jetpack Company, has taken thousands of orders from first responders, border patrols, and search and rescue units. Now they’re working on a model for personal use, a ‘motorbike in the sky’.
Glenn’s combination of technical knowhow, entrepreneurial savvy, persistence in pursuit of every science fiction fan’s dream, and down to earth New Zealand charm make him an inspiring speaker. He comes recommended by a series of glowing speaking testimonials. I’m thrilled that Lincoln Jay is working with him to find new speaking opportunities around the world.
You can watch a video of the first time Glenn and his team took the jetpack to a height of 5000 feet here