Archive for August, 2009

Philip Bendall flies Martin Jet Pack

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Philip Bendall has became one of the first people in the world to experience flight in the Martin Jet Pack. On Thursday 27 August 2009 the Managing Director of Segway New Zealand was strapped into the latest prototype and lifted off the ground at Waitangi, New Zealand. The Jet Pack was being demonstrated as part of MORGO 2009.

“I’ve dreamed of a future where I’d be flying a Jet Pack for as long as I can remember, and I think just about every guy knows exactly what I’m talking about” he said afterwards. “The feeling of that moment of lifting off the ground with your fleet dangling down was incredibly exciting! Afterwards, I was standing back marveling at the Jet Pack as it rested on the lawn, surrounded by Segway PTs, taking photos on my iPhone and beaming them to friends worldwide. And I was thinking ‘If there was ever any doubt before, the 21st century really has arrived.'”

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The Jet Pack is the invention of Glenn Martin, from Christchurch-based Martin Aircraft Company. It was first revealed at OshKosh airshow, Wisconsin, in 2008, where it made it’s one and only flight to date outside of New Zealand. Thursday’s two flights were the first-ever in the North Island, and the first away from the company’s South Island headquarters and R&D facilities.

“The test pilot flew a demonstration flight in front of more than 100 MORGO delegates, then I was fortunate enough to become not only the 2nd person in the North Island to experience the Jet Pack, but one of the very first not associated with Martin Aircraft. On Friday four other delegates had the chance to fly too, so we’ve all been pretty fortunate indeed.”

MORGO is an invitation-only event that brings together New Zealand’s top technology entrepreneurs to network and share experiences over two days, and features talks by individuals who’ve not only been very successful in their fields but also have an extraordinary story to tell about precisely how they’ve achieved what they set out to do. MORGO is organised by Jenney Morell from venture capital organisation Number 8 Ventures, and this was the 7th annual event.

Segway New Zealand has been in attendance since 2007, showcasing Segway PTs and running Segway PT Polo games during breakout sessions. New Zealand’s PT Polo team – The Pole Blacks – has included well-know technology entrepreurs Rod Dury (XERO, Aftermail), Steve Simms (Tomizone), Andrew Somerville (Biggie) and Seeby Woodhouse (Orcon, Green Carbon). This year the new Patoller PT’s were on display, with the i2 and x2 models shown below next to the Jet Pack.

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Mayor Stands Up for Segway PTs

In USA Segway PTs can be operated on footpaths, cycle lanes and urban roads in 47 states plus the District of Columbia. Forty five states have passed permissive legislation, and two states didn’t need to make adjustments. Such is the political process, there are a couple of curious anomalies. For example, in 2003 California passed legislation to enable PTs to be used in public spaces, on footpaths and roads, yet shortly afterwards – and prior to the PT even going on sale – the city of San Francisco passed a bylaw limiting use to roads only (not footpaths) in the downtown area. In 2007 California extended its law to increase the range of places where PTs can be used to include park trials, beaches and cycle lanes, yet San Francisco remains stuck with its backward bylaw and has become the laughing stock of US metropolises.

When the state of New York prepared enabling legislation for Segway PTs, a political compromise resulted in an exclusion for the time being within the boundaries of the city of New York. Frustrated at this absurd situation, Mayor Bloomberg last week spoke strongly in favour of permitting Segway PTs to be used in New York city while signing a bill about pedicabs. In frustration he said “It’s just idiotic…If it were up to me, we would also have Segways on the streets…I hear you. I just can’t explain why people are afraid to change.”

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PT sales up in UK, but still twice as popular in NZ

The Telegraph reports Segway PT sales are up almost 12% in the first 6 months of 2009. The British distributor says PTs are becoming increasingly popular, but are yet to reach the sales levels of other EU states such as Germany, Austria, The Netherlands, France, Spain and Italy – almost all EU states legalised PT use on footpaths, cycleways and urban roads earlier this decade. While the UK is yet to update it’s 120 year old law that currently makes using PTs in public spaces technically illegal, authorities have taken a practical, tolerant approach and have never ticketed anyone for riding PT in public.

There are about 2,000 PTs in Britain, or one per 30,000 people. Here in New Zealand Segway PTs are almost twice as popular: about 250 PTs, or one per 17,000 people.

In fact, NZ has one of the Top 3 per-capita rates of PT ownership in the world (normalised for GDP, or relative wealth), outside of North America.

Segway Tours continue to increase in popularity across New Zealand and in just about every country in the world. What better way to see more of the sights in less time – up close and in person – than on a Segway PT tour? This week, PTs from Queenstown tour operator Segway On Q featured on TV2’s popular Sunday’s television program What Now. Segway On Q’s lakefront tours is voted the #2 Attraction in Queenstown at TripAdvisor.com

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Popular Public Lecture

On 30 July Segway NZ Managing Director Philip Bendall delivered a guest lecture at Waikato University. This IET (Institute of Engineering and Technology) event attracted a record crowd to hear about the development, technology and applications of the Segway PT. Attendees also had an opportunity to ride the Segway Personal Transporter (PT), and ask specific questions about its design and uses. The Waikato Times previewed the lecture.

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Philip Bendall has previously delivered lectures to Marketing audiences offering a comparison between how the PT was launched in USA and how he launched the PT into the NZ market during 2003-4, to Engineering audiences about the product development process and technical aspects of the PT, and to general audiences about the history and increasing popularity of the device. He holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering from Auckland University.

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