Various startups continue to try to reinvent aviation with personal aircraft that look like consumer drones scaled up enough to fit a human. Now, newcomer Jetson Aero throws its hat into the ring with the Jetson One, an electric VTOL that doesn’t require a pilot license and that you put together yourself.
I admit that it’s getting hard to keep up with all of these “personal electric aerial vehicle” concepts. It seems these flying vehicles are always just off in the near future like flying cars. Some of them even get billed as flying cars, even though they’re certainly not cars. Jetson Aero, a Swedish startup, goes a step further with a lofty, somewhat scary goal: “We intend to make everyone a pilot.”
The Jetson One is similar to the concepts you’ve already seen from companies like Opener and SkyDrive. Jetson says that it’s one of about 170 companies trying to do the same thing, of which only two are currently taking orders for their vehicles.
The One looks like a side-by-side, but instead of wheels, it has four large rotors. Those rotors sit mere inches from an open cockpit that seats a single brave pilot. Like other eVTOL concepts, this aircraft is classified as an ultralight, which means its performance and capacities are severely limited. Here’s a quick review of what that means:
Powered ultralights must weigh less than 254 pounds (excluding floats and safety equipment), have a fuel capacity no greater than five gallons and must have a top speed no faster than 55 knots (63 mph). Additionally, an ultralight may carry only a single occupant.
In case you were wondering, the One handily beats that weight figure, coming in at 190 pounds.
Its compact size also means it fits onto a trailer, so you could tow it out to wherever you plan to fly it. Power comes from four rotors that produce a combined 118 HP, fed from a lithium-ion battery. Jetson doesn’t say how big that battery is, but it says flight time is a short 20 minutes with a 187-pound pilot. The top speed is right at the legal limit of 63 mph.
Jetson says it will ship the One in a 50 percent completed state, with the customer having to finish the job on their own.
And like other concepts from the aforementioned horde of companies, the pilot sitting in that single seat won’t be able to enjoy Thanksgiving too much. In this case, the operator can’t weigh more than 210 pounds.
Safety comes from an aluminum spaceframe and some tech. Jetson says the One can fly on just three of its rotors, and its flight computer is said to have triple layers of redundancy. It also has a hands-free hover feature, can try to avoid obstacles on its own and has a ballistic parachute should things really go downhill.
But remember that part where Jetson said it wants to make everyone a pilot? I love flying, and I urge everyone to get up in a cockpit at least once. But training is important, even if it’s rudimentary, just so you understand what you’re getting into. These eVTOLs hit claimed speeds that are more than fast enough to harm the occupant and others, and most of these companies imagine a future where a bunch of these clog up the airways. The company also hasn’t indicated what training it’ll provide, if any.
The Jetson One runs $92,000 and is already sold out for 2022, but the company says it’s taking orders for 2023. Those who got in on the 2022 production should expect to get them sometime in the fall next year.
Assuming the Jetson One actually makes it to production, that is.