Jetpack suggested as tool for frost-fighting

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MATT.TSO
@thenews.co.nz

Frost-fighting scenes from Central Otago orchards could resemble those of science fiction films as a New Zealand company continues to develop an innovative jetpack.

The Christchurch-based Martin Jetpack company’s Optionally Piloted Hovering Air Vehicle (Ophav) could be developed to replace or supplement helicopters in fruit defrosting operations.

The Ophav, which is powered by a pair of ducted fans rather than a jet, can be operated by a pilot or by remote control.

Martin Jetpack vice-president of sales and customer delivery Michael Read said the idea of using Ophavs for defrosting had been floated but discussions were in very early stages and no testing had yet occurred.

“I can’t see why it wouldn’t work, [but] at the moment we have no idea if it will work for defrosting.”

Helicopters are used at present to fly over orchards and vineyards to push warm air towards the ground to prevent frost forming on trees and vines, which caused damage to fruit.

Mr Read said the Ophavs could potentially be programmed to fly autonomously over predetermined areas and an advantage of this would be the ability to have multiple machines in the air at once in relatively close proximity.

He said although the company was not actively pursuing the fruit production market, it would react if interest from fruit producers became strong.

“We are keen to work with specialists to develop a product that meets the requirements of the end user. If the market said ‘we want this thing’, we will respond.”

The idea for the Martin Jetpack was conceived by Glenn Martin in 1981 and the company was founded in 1998.

The Ophav is being developed and marketed for specialist operations such as police, search and rescue and disaster response applications.

The company’s focus just now was to develop products that could save lives, Mr Read said.