One evening in 1981, when Glenn Martin was a Biochemistry student at New Zealand’s Otago University, he found himself in the pub with friends talking about why so much of the technological promise of the sixties had gone unfulfilled. ‘Weren’t we supposed to have jetpacks by now?’ they wondered. What went wrong?
Tens of thousands of people around the world probably had similar conversations at one time or another. But Glenn was the only one to get up the next day and go to the library to start working on it.
It’s rare to meet someone who has single-mindedly devoted the best part of their life towards one objective - especially one which has fired the imagination of people around the world for decades - but that is what Glenn Martin has done.
In the years after that conversation in the pub, he snuck into university maths lectures until his maths was good enough to do the calculations which underpinned the engineering. After university he got a job with a company to learn how technology was brought to market. And each night he worked on developing a Jetpack in his garage.
Along the way he encountered all the problems which had bedevilled his predecessors: how to make sure it could fly for long enough, lift enough weight, and how the pilot should control it.
He overcame risks which have scuppered many other pioneering inventions throughout history, such as how to keep the project safe and solvent, how to make sure it didn’t fall foul of regulations, and not least how to keep sane while secretly developing a technology that might one day change the world, but has to stay securely locked in your garage until the day you have a working model.
Thirteen years after his first eureka moment in the university library, his jetpack model undertook a lift-off with his wife as its very first test-pilot. In 2008, it was ready to be introduced to the world at the Oshkosh Airshow in Wisconsin, USA.
It drew some of the biggest crowds the in the airshow’s six decade history.
In the next day alone, it was the subject of 970 TV news stories.
Subsequently, the ‘Martin Jetpack’ has featured in the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, GQ, and many others. It has been named one of Time Magazine’s Top Fifty Inventions of the year for 2010, has seen Glenn feature on Jay Leno and meet Richard Branson and Larry Page, and receive an invitation to fly at the Playboy mansion (which he politely declined).
Today, the Martin Jetpack can fly at speeds up to 100 km/h and altitudes up to 4000 ft. It will be able to stay airborne for 30 minutes, and the Martin Aircraft Company is developing the Martin Jetpack to meet demand as a first responder vehicle and a heavy lift unmanned air vehicle. It plans to develop one for leisure and personal use.
Glenn is an active sponsor of New Zealand science and innovation and an inspirational business speaker. Glenn now devotes his time to the next generation of entrepreneurs through consultancy and mentoring.
Glenn remains the largest private shareholder in Martin Aircraft.
He is winner of: