The "Body Jet" Jet Pack Shows Off Designer Marc Newson's High-Flying Ambition

(Courtesy of Marc Newson Limited)

It’s no secret that designer Marc Newson has an interest in taking things off the ground: In 2007, he was tapped by the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) to design a spaceship, and as Creative Director of Qantas, Newson designed the Qantas Skybed and the interiors for their A380 aircraft. He’s even founded his own aerospace design consultancy. But perhaps his most out-of-this-world invention is the James Bond-style “Body Jet” personal jetpack he first revealed during his 2010 “Transport” exhibition at Gagosian Gallery.

Newson initially hoped that the “Body Jet” would be the first practical jetpack sold on the market. As it turns out, he was beaten to that post by New Zealand-based Martin Aircraft Company, with the now highly anticipated Martin Jetpack, which the company will begin rolling out in early 2013. But though Newson’s product still remains in concept mode, now that autonomous flight is opening up on the marketplace, it seems all the more viable that his design could become a reality.

Newson was commissioned to make his design in 2010 by a small French company specializing in the production of aerospace components. As he’s since described in his eponymous Taschen encyclopedia, the jetpack was planned as “a small object you could strap yourself into.” He added, “[it] is not a new idea and was tried as long ago as the 1950s, but no one has succeeded in making a commercial reality or even managed to do it cleverly, not to mention with good looks.”

The final black-and-yellow version, as described in the catalogue for the Gagosian show later that year, was “a prototype of a personal flying machine designed for both civilian and military use, straight from a James Bond or sci-fi movie,” powered by a small and lightweight jet engine with several hours autonomy, operating with a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL). Primarily created from carbon-fiber composite materials, the pack features landing gear in a cradle that rotates and retracts to a horizontal position during flight; the pilot, who wears a custom-designed helmet, also has a deployable parachute (located behind the head) in case of an emergency.

Since “Body Jet” was completed, the French company who initially commissioned the project has attempted to patent the concepts for the gyroscopic control system, but has been held back by bureaucratic delays.

However, “since bureaucratic and technical issues for such a project require years to resolve,” Newson says, “if you can get the design part of the process underway toward the beginning it helps the project advance faster.” And if Newson attracts the right funding to develop a commercial version of his invention, there is still a chance it could be gracing the skies in the not-too-distant future.

Click the slideshow to see images of the “Body Jet” jetpack.