Ultimately, the Coast Guard granted the jetpack an exemption from the Safe Loading Standard, stating in a letter sent to the company that “to grant this exemption would not adversely affect boating safety.” Lloyd’s of London and two other insurance companies offer insurance to jetpack operators.
“It’s definitely a strange position, to educate the regulators about your product,” Rosenblatt said. “Once they understood what the product was, it wasn’t an issue.”
Apart from working with regulators, JetLev collaborates with operators to maintain a standard of safety.
The company requires operators to take a safety tutorial before buying a jetpack. If they don’t participate in the tutorial, JetLev won’t sell, Rosenblatt said.
But the mandatory safety course does not apply to people who want to buy JetLev products for personal use. Although they are strongly encouraged to take it, buyers aren’t required to do so.
If the market does shift from operators and yacht owners to personal buyers, the responsibility of staying safe will likely fall on thrill-seeking individuals.
Currently, there aren’t any laws on the books regarding jetpacks. Operators arrange where and when to fly with local agencies, whose attitude toward jetpacks can vary. In Chicago, for instance, lake officials initially resisted the use of jetpacks because of overcrowding, while in Fort Lauderdale, the Department of Parks and Recreation welcomed jetpacks as a way of attracting tourists, Smith of Rocketman said.
Safety officials themselves don’t know what to think of the growing industry. Some wild stunts have been documented by jetpack users on YouTube.
“We’re not really sure yet how dangerous they are, if they’re dangerous,” Pat Horning, who works in a dive team that recovers bodies from Utah’s Lake Powell — where there is an increase in jetpack use — told local newspaper the Deseret News.
During the recent ride on Biscayne Bay, Smith used a water scooter to shadow Endara as he flew the jetpack. From the water scooter, Smith was able to control the jetpack’s power.
This ensures safety, Smith said. If Endara had gotten too close to a nearby boat or lost control of the pack, the instructor could simply kill the power.
A few times during the 30-minute session, Smith cut the power when Endara was 30 feet in the air, just for the fun of an unexpected free fall.
“I thought it was going to hurt, but I didn’t feel a thing,” he said.
When Endara finished his ride, adrenaline continued to pump through his system even after he took the gear off his back.
“Holy crap, that’s awesome!” he said. “It’s better than sky-diving.”
As Endara leaped from the water into the air, his wife, Lily Vidal, watched eagerly as she waited for her turn to fly. The couple, whose second date was a sky-diving trip, received the jetpack rental ($250 per person) as a wedding gift.
“This is the best wedding gift we got,” she said.