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Wednesday, 23 August, 2000, 18:03 GMT 19:03 UK
Personal helicopter set for lift-off
SoloTrek
The prototype flying machine will be tested next month. Image: Millennium Jet, Inc
A strap-on 'James Bond' style helicopter which might one day be used to chase criminals is about to be tested in the US.

The company behind it, Millennium Jet of Santa Clara, California, is due to try the prototype model in a wind tunnel next month.

US space agency NASA is providing technical support for the machine's maiden voyage.

But it remains to be seen whether the craft, known as SoloTrek, will actually work.

Dream voyage

The personal flying machine is designed to take off and land vertically, like a helicopter.

To fly the craft, the pilot stands inside it, straps it on, then lifts off and steers using hand controls and their own body weight.

"We have all been dreaming of such a vehicle for many years," said Michael Moshier, founder and chief executive of Millennium Jet.

"Now the dream is about to become a reality."

The company believes their first customers will be the armed forces, police and rescue workers although they are not ruling out recreational use.

SoloTrek
An early model of SoloTrek. Image: Millennium Jet, Inc
But similar ventures have failed in the past.

One of the collaborators on the project, William Warmbrodt, of the NASA Ames Research Centre in California, admitted it might not work.

"It's been an idea since the '60s," he told New Scientist magazine.

"But stability, control and practicality of the design have always been beyond the here and now.

"It may turn out that the SoloTrek is not feasible, yet will help us take a step forward towards a more feasible system."

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