It all started with the James Bond movie "Thunderball."
As a teenager, Ray Li became fascinated with the idea of using a strap-on jetpack for personal flight after watching 007 use one to elude two gunmen.
"One in three people have the dream of flying, and I am one of them," says Li, 59, of St. John's, Newfoundland. "After I saw 'Thunderball,' I was hooked."
And 46 years later, Li has turned his dream into reality. His patented Jetlev R200 can carry a person to a maximum speed of about 22 mph. Unlike Bond's jetpack, however, Li's is designed to be operated only over water.
The jetpack is tethered to a fiberglass pod with a 33-foot, 4-inch-diameter hose. The pod houses a 200-hp, 4-stroke engine that takes in water and sends it through the hose to the jetpack. The water is expelled from the pack's two adjustable nozzles, propelling the pilot while towing the pod, which is actually a small boat with an LOA of 10 feet, 7 inches and a beam of 4 feet.
Click play to watch a jetpack test flight. Mobile users can click here.
The boat also contains a 26-gallon fuel tank. The pilot can fly for about 2 to 2-1/2 hours on a full tank, says Li, who spent 10 years developing the Jetlev R200.
The operator controls thrust by twisting the fly-by-wire throttle grip. Up or down movement of the control arms adjusts the nozzle angles to change thrust from lift to propulsion for forward, neutral or reverse. Different nozzle angles allow the operator to yaw and weight shifting from side to side allows turning. Flight ceiling is 28 feet (measured from foot level).
"I looked at Jet Skis and realized they have a lot of thrust," says Li, whose company, Jetlev Technologies, is based in Dania Beach, Fla. "I thought if I could remove the weight of the engine, the fuel, the battery and just send the water up to a jetpack, I would have a high thrust-to-weight ratio where one could achieve controlled and agile flight."
The pod has a low center of gravity, with a total height of 27 inches, to add stability in rougher water. It is designed to be "virtually watertight," says Li, a scuba diver and water sports enthusiast. "Large breaking waves could capsize the pod, but it's not designed for those conditions," he says.
The video of the R200 in action has gone viral, which Li says has helped his company gain momentum in its goal of selling the R200 internationally. The buzz has been so strong that Li decided not to display this winter at U.S. boat shows. However, the jetpack was displayed at shows in Düsseldorf, Germany, and London.
The Jetlev R200 costs $99,500. The company is targeting megayacht owners and waterfront resorts. Li says buyers must complete a one-day instruction and maintenance course (included in the purchase price) before taking delivery. Owners must make sure every user is trained and supervised, Li says.
Production is expected to begin this spring. The company so far has three U.S. dealers and has received 12 orders.
Contact: Jetlev Technologies at (954) 922-3325.