Emergencies that occur at Dubai’s many skyscrapers, such as the recent fire at the Address Hotel, will soon be attended by Civil Defence officers using futuristic personal jetpacks.
The city’s Directorate of Civil Defence has ordered 20 of the $200,000 machines, made by New Zealand-based Martin Aircraft Company, plus two simulators for training.
The jetpacks can be operated by a single pilot for 30 minutes at ranges of between 30 and 50 kms. 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.
The machines have 200-horsepower fan-driven engines that give them a top speed of 45mph and an altitude ceiling of 3,000 ft, which means they'll be able to reach the top of the Burj Khalifa building.
They can even be piloted remotely and can reach spots that helicopters would struggle with.
First delivery of the initial 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 Defense 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 Defense’s Operations Department, explained that the jetpacks will allow Civil Defense 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," Almutawa added. "With the jetpack we can go there and communicate physically with them and give them instructions."
Additionally, Almutawa noted that the jetpack will also be used to move heavy rescue equipment in emergency situations or even to evacuate people.
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.
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