The “Jetpack Man” Drone

Reading some more articles from The Drive’s “The Warzone” segment, I came across a few 2020-2021 articles about the “Jetpack Man” in Southern California. I have never heard of this story last year, let alone in 2020, nor was I aware of it. The story itself sounded about as outlandish as it seemed a legitimately potential aviation hazard. For those who are just as unaware as I am, the “Jetpack Man” referred to a small number of aerial sightings of what appeared to be a man flying in a jetpack. Commercial airline pilots in Southern California at the time reported the Jetpack Man as flying in the air at an altitude of 3,000 feet (914.4 meters).

The initial sighting occurred in late August 2020 along a busy flight route near LAX in Los Angeles, which was the first in a series of articles covered by “The Warzone” in The Drive. Subsequent articles were released in the months that followed as more pilots spotted the Jetpack Man flying at that same altitude along the landing route to LAX. The writers who covered the story did went out of their way to issue FOIA requests for information that Federal authorities have regarding the Jetpack Man. One of those articles included the flight audio of pilots reporting the Jetpack Man to Air Traffic Control at LAX, another being the full audio recordings released by the FAA. The sightings did continue well into 2021, the latest one occurring nearly a year after the first sighting.

Given the fact that these sightings were occurring along busy routes to LAX and that they pose as hazards to commercial flights, it is understandable for the FAA and the FBI to be involved. Their efforts, from what I can tell, were centered on trying to identify who or what may be flying so dangerously at that particular airspace. Nothing points to the possibility that the Jetpack Man was actually a person flying a jetpack, so the leading theory posited by Federal authorities is that it was likely a drone that somebody had deliberately made to resemble a person with a jetpack. This theory was also the same one proposed by one of the relevant articles from “The Warzone,” which described a video taken by flight school trainees who were flying over the Pacific. The author who penned the article did make a convincing argument which I think should be quoted here:

“A guy flying out over the ocean in a jet pack at around 3,000 feet, especially one without any lifting surfaces, is a puzzling proposition, to say the least. Jet packs that do exist have very short ranges and are not equipped to be flying in dense airspace, especially thousands of feet in the air.”

Of course, the article does state that a report of the sighting was not filed with the FAA. There is an official statement from the FAA at the very end of that article which confirmed that this sighting was not filed by the aforementioned flight school.

Moreover, the idea that the Jetpack Man was not somebody wearing a jetpack but a drone made to resemble is corroborated in another article. There is an email featuring the testimony of an actual jetpack test pilot who was asked to comment on the Jetpack Man. He was skeptical of the idea that somebody would dare to fly around in a jetpack, especially at the aforementioned altitude, maintaining that no trained jetpack users were in the air during the months of the Jetpack Man sightings.

To this day, all of the evidence and the reports appears to be pointing toward the idea that this was somebody’s drone violating restricted airspace. The question that remains, even now, is who was piloting that drone and why did they made it resemble somebody wearing a jetpack? The answer will remain elusive because there has not been any confirmed sightings as of this year.

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