Dubai, full of giant skyscrapers, is buying its firefighters jetpacks

Ladders just won’t do it.
Ladders just won’t do it.
Image: Reuters/Jumana El Heloueh
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Traditional fire-fighting technology just doesn’t cut it when your city brims with towering high-rises. So, to make it easier for firefighters to respond to emergencies dozens of floors above the ground, Dubai is investing in something uniquely modern—jetpacks.

At the Dubai Air Show on Nov. 9, the city’s civil defense department signed an agreement with Martin Aircraft Company for 20 “manned and unmanned jetpacks” to be delivered in the near future. As Quartz reported earlier this year, Martin Aircraft expects its professional jetpacks for first responders to be ready by late 2016—and it also aims to launch ”personal jetpacks” for the consumer market in mid-2017.

The first-responder jetpacks come with a top speed of 45 mph, and can climb up to 3,000 feet. Made with carbon fiber and 3D-printed parts, each jetpack is able to carry roughly 260 pounds—which allows for medical equipment to be boosted up, along with a firefighter.

“Sometimes, in fires, people go to the top of the building. You cannot always get ladders there, and you cannot always use the elevators,” Dubai’s civil defense department director Ali Hassan Almutawa told the BBC. ”The [jetpacks] can go into confined spaces to size-up the situation. We are going to modify them with thermal-imaging cameras.”

While there are doubts about jetpack technology—a Google executive notably commented last year, “wouldn’t it be great to have a jetpack that isn’t also a death trap?”—Martin Aircraft had a successful IPO earlier this year, and was valued at more than $100 million on the Australian Securities Exchange. The company’s founder Glenn Martin has been working on the technology for 30 years.

The price tag for one jetpack is reportedly $150,000.

But for Dubai, which uses Mercedes and Lamborghinis as police cars, that shouldn’t be too much of a problem.