Personal flight mobility once belonged to the realm of science fiction. Now, thanks to innovation by a Hampshire-based company, lightweight jetpacks are set to play a life-saving role in rescue and disaster relief.

Tech start-up Maverick Aviation is developing hands-free devices, which use micro gas turbine engines to propel first responders through the air and reach inaccessible areas safely and quickly.

Other applications include engineering and maintenance, such as onshore and offshore wind farms, along with policing, security and defence, as well as adventure experiences.

The company has been founded by Antony Quinn, using any shore leave from his career as a Royal Navy Commander to progress the venture.

His ‘A-Team’ of specialists include Chief Technology Officer Matt Denton, the man behind the world’s largest rideable six-legged robot and animatronics engineer for cinema blockbusters Star Wars and Harry Potter.

With R&D funding through Innovate UK, Britain’s innovation agency, Maverick Aviation has stepped up design and development from new premises.

It has set up shop in a 500 sq ft light manufacturing facility, one of 20 fully occupied workshops, at Fareham Innovation Centre, next to Solent Airport in south Hampshire.

Previously the firm was a virtual resident at the centre, which is home to 61 companies, with 55 serviced offices, meeting rooms and conference facilities.

Maverick Aviation is focusing on design and technology, including proprietary software and advanced on-site 3D printing of hardware componentry, including titanium, aluminium and carbon fibre.

Antony, who trained as a jet suit pilot with Gravity Industries, said: “We are keen to move away from any parallels with sci-fi and superheroes because personal flight mobility is already a reality.

“This is about exhaustive R&D, along with rigorous technology validation processes, to create hands-free jetpacks which can be used for engineering and maintenance tasks, and life-saving rescue roles.”

With a core team of five, Maverick Aviation’s work is under wraps due to pending invention patents, Antony stressed.

He added: “Our aim is to make our jetpacks the Land Rover Defender of its kind – a machine workhorse, with affordable units produced for a wide range of industries in the UK and for export.

“Users will be able to strap on the jetpacks as easily as a rucksack and fly safely and intuitively without costly training, opening up the market to potential mass production and remote software upgrades.

“That we can carry out R&D here at Fareham Innovation Centre is to our competitive advantage – there are high-end facilities, complimentary business support by an in-house expert and deep pool of tech know-how from other occupiers.

“As can be the case with R&D, we are already seeing tech spin-offs such as our jet drone with potential commercial applications and interest from private investors.”

Last autumn Maverick Aviation joined Southampton Science Park’s Catalyst business accelerator programme and has drawn upon the University of Portsmouth for a research intern, echoing the strong links Fareham Innovation Centre has with the region’s universities and industry.

Stephen Brownlie is Centre Director at Fareham Innovation Centre, which is run by UKSPA member Oxford Innovation, the UK’s largest operator of innovation centres, on behalf of building owner Fareham Borough Council. He said: “Based at one of our 20 workshops, Maverick Aviation is road-mapping technology to the end goal of launching affordable and accessible personal aviation jetpacks.

“In essence, Maverick Aviation is disrupting the market in the same way the electric car is challenging the internal combustion engine.”

Along with Antony and Matt, the start-up also draws upon experts with aerospace, engineering and test and evaluation backgrounds at Lotus, NASA, BAE Systems and QinetiQ.

Other innovators are Fareham Innovation Centre include RAD Propulsion, a marine tech start-up which designs and manufactures bespoke electric propulsion systems for all types of marine applications, from kayaks to zero emission vessels.