Taking to the skies with a rocket strapped to your back is still a dangerous idea, despite how Hollywood typically portrays the stunt. So a product design student in the UK created a safer way to fly — under water — with a jetpack that can propel a swimmer at speeds of up to 13km/h.
Archie O’Brien says it took him just a year to design and build a functional prototype of his CUDA jetpack, after learning that similar underwater propulsion devices can cost as much as a new car. Unless you’re commuting to and from work every day across a small lake, spending $20,000 on a personal submarine just isn’t worth it.
O’Brien says he was able to realise his creation quickly thanks to the use of dozens of 3D-printed components, 45 in total, that could be quickly modified and reprinted as the engineering of the CUDA was continually refined.
While the jetpack appears to function similar to a jet ski, sucking water in and then blasting it out the back at higher speeds, the CUDA instead uses a more compact propulsion system that O’Brien custom-designed, powered by a 3D-printed impeller reinforced with carbon fibre.
There are currently plans to put the CUDA into production, with the first models being available as early as 2019, O’Brien says.
The jetpack wouldn’t only be for recreational use, however; O’Brien sees it as being an equally useful tool for underwater search and rescue as well.
As for that cheaper price tag, which is what inspired O’Brien to design and build the CUDA in the first place? That’s still up in the air (or underwater?), as the device’s various components still need to be thoroughly tested to see if the 3D-printed parts hold up, or if more expensive alternatives are needed before the public can strap these on.