We knew that the jetpack was an established form of art, and that the work in hydro thrust sport that Stratospheric does is “standing on the shoulders of giants”. However it took the attack of a None Producing Entity (NPE) to realize exactly how tall the giant is. We and our researchers have now amassed an overwhelming amount of prior art with the majority of it coming from the aerospace programs of the U.S. It makes us clearly aware of the tradition that we are carrying on and the continuum not only in the pursuit, but the tools and devices.
With no knowledge of history, or simply failing to acknowledge it, one could not be blamed for thinking that hose connected flight sport was invented sometime in the 2000’s. Nothing could be further from the realities of history. Man’s desire to fight the pull of gravity and fly has been a constant for centuries. Engineers and technicians spent millions of dollars and countless man-years working out systems to push pilots and machines off the ground using the thrust from compressed fluids.
Let’s start at the basics with a definition of some of the terms. Obvious for the most part, but crystal clear for the non-native English readers.
- Vector, a quantity having direction as well as magnitude, especially as determining the position of one point in space relative to another. [Vecteur, une quantité de direction, ainsi que présentant grandeur, en particulier en tant que détermination de la position d’un point dans l’espace par rapport à l’autre. ]
- Thrust, the propulsive force of a jet or rocket engine. [Poussée, la force de propulsion d’un moteur à réaction ou fusée.]
- Jet, a rapid stream of liquid or gas forced out of a small opening. [Jet, un flux rapide de liquide ou de gaz forcé sur une petite ouverture.]
- Flight, the action or process of flying through the air. [Vol, l’action ou le processus de voler dans les airs.]
- Tether, a rope, chain, or the like, by which a mobile object is fastened to a fixed object so as to limit its range of movement. The term umbilical is also used. [Tether, une corde, une chaîne ou comme, par lequel un objet mobile est fixé à un objet fixe afin de limiter son amplitude de mouvement. Le terme est également utilisé ombilical.]
The mechanics of hydro flight are derived from aspects of aerospace technology, specifically the jet propulsion arena. The history of jet based propulsion goes back to seventh century fireworks, while jet based flight begins in the late 1930’s with the invention of the jet engine. The term “Jet Age” was coined in the 1940’s to describe the advancement that the jet brought in speeds and efficiency of propulsion. The term “jet” includes liquid or solid fuel rockets as well as turbo engines. They all produce thrust, force in one straight linear direction. Push out mass at high speed out of one end and the container moves in the other direction. Like lighting a bottle rocket, light it up and it goes in whatever direction it is aimed until the fuel runs out. Good for limited use. Steering becomes an obvious necessity to control and harness the power. That is where vectoring comes in, steering the thrust, changing and controlling the direction of the thrust. Jet aircraft mostly work by leveraging against the movement of the air with flaps and ailerons to induce changes in direction. Rockets are more basic, vectoring, or steering, the actual thrust stream.
To raise something off the ground, the mechanics are simple, more force than mass, overcoming gravity. This led to a simple set of factors to optimize, more thrust, less weight. The research led to exploration in every direction to achieve these two goals. Naturally, items that generate, or store energy are heavy, and the fuel itself is heavy. If the object utilizing the thrust can be kept in the vicinity of the power generator or power storage, the two can be linked by a hose, conduit or tether. The following tracks some of these explorations and realized flight systems over the years utilizing hoses to connect the heavier weight pumps or storage tanks to the mobile apparatus.
There are a lot of milestones in the timeline of vectored thrust flight leading up to hydro flight. The whole field is called vectored thrust flight, jets provide the thrust, vectoring is a way of saying “directing” and steering the thrust. The exploration of the concept has been ongoing for at least half a century. Before there was a jetpack, there was a jetboard, first flown on February 2, 1951. Both devices flew connected to a firehose.
Here in short description are the steps along the way that only deal with the tethered, or hose connected pursuits. Click on any of the titles to show the video where available and description. Each of these experiments is thoroughly covered in government issued documentation, some of which we have listed on other pages.
The First Jetboard, Zimmerman’s NACA experiment standing a platform supported by a jet of air.
Thomas Moore, hydrogen peroxide connected jetpack
Thomas Moore worked for the US Army and in the early 1950’s experimented and patented a soldier mobility unit. His initial testing was connected to a fluid supply hose and the back pack was contained in a test rig.
Wendell Moore, first firehose connected jetpack tests
Wendell Moore who went on to develop the hydrogen peroxide powered jetpack, first tested the concept of lifting the pilot up under the shoulders with a compressed air connected jetpack.
NASA Langley hose pressure supplied models outdoors
These were first powered by pumped hydrogen peroxide that flashed into steam at the jet, later the method became simpler using only compressed air.
NASA Flying Platform Research
Hybrid platform combining air jets and propellers for control and lift. Flexible air hose supplied from below the platform.
NASA compressed air supply for jet simulation in wind tunnels
In free flying wind tunnels, the power supplied to many of the models was compressed nitrogen gas supplied via flexible hose.
NASA lunar lander simulator
Flexible hose supplied compressed fluid propulsion and steering.
Flexible hose to compressed air tank with foot angle vector control.
Gemini 10 Spacewalk, Hand Held Maneuvering Unit
Gemini astronauts used a nitrogen gas powered hand held set of dual “tractor” thrusters and a single “push” thruster, hooked up to a long flexible compressed fluid supply hose going back to the base unit, the spacecraft.
Skylab Foot Controlled Maneuvering Unit
These are a sub set of a much greater group of individual propulsion devices based on vectoring the thrust from jets. These are the direct ones, the ones that are connected to a flexible hose transferring thrust energy from a base unit to a mobile one. By the time hydro sport had been synthesized, the pressurized hose supply was a convention, a common method that was used to supply thrust to lift devices. All that detailed work that NACA, NASA and the US Army published about hose connected vectored thrust flight. This history is in documents called NPL, or Non Patent Literature. These are documents that are published that contain prior art. None, as in zero, of the documents above were presented, referenced or vetted in the patent examinations of Li and Zapata. As inclusion into and examination process of the above fields of endeavour would have resulted in the rejections of the applications, the result is the USPTO issuing what is referred to as a “poor quality” patent. A patent that will not stand up to further scrutiny. A patent where the claims can be disregarded as invalid.
We gratefully acknowledge the work done by the giants, government and private engineers and inventors and technicians, our ancestors who wanted to fly just as bad as we do. Stratospheric, as Li and Zapata, operate in a continuum of development of vectored thrust flight. While genuine innovation of sub components may be able to have patent protection, the overall concept of a jetboards, jetpacks, jetbikes cannot be owned or lorded over. These are the culturally known knowns, transitioned or placed into the public domain. The foundations built long ago, for some, the unknown knowns.
History has our backs, and it is the history written by giants.
The question of who invented the jetpack, jetboard, jetchair, pod-racer, footjets, hand jets? Ultimately, who cares? Move forward and make good equipment, treat your customers right, listen to the users and evolve your gear.
Below are some of the highlights of the documents, practically speaking, there are so many documents and so many references that invalidate the patent barriers on the sport that we have exceeded our ability to catalog and describe them for the time being. Now it is in the hands of our legal team and we will get back to concentrating on what we do best, making gear that get you in the air.