That mysterious jetpack guy that flew over LAX? It was probably this drone.

Originally published at: That mysterious jetpack guy that flew over LAX? It was probably this drone. | Boing Boing


Well, it’s probably not that exact drone since that one was built in Germany and travelling for weird stunts is not exactly easy right now but it does seem quite likely that someone else has had the same idea or was inspired by that YouTube video.


I agree with Doctor_Faustus: Not that drone. That one doesn’t look like it could get to 5000 foot altitude.
The really suspicious part is that any legit drone pilot would know to stay out of landing paths and major air lanes – they’d get their commercial licenses yanked, so it’s obviously a prankster wanting to be seen.
But a lightweight dummy is much more plausible than an actual person at that altitude.

Still – piloting at that range means significant communications equipment (no bluetooth or Wi-Fi a mile up), significant batteries… this is not a weekend project…


I needed that smile this morning. Thanks!


If you want to camouflage it, shouldn’t it be wearing blue?


FPV (first person view) hobbyists have created a US market for long range (>10 mile) radio control equipment of dubious legality. There are also open source alternatives using no-license-needed LoRa transceivers that are capable of up to roughly 50 mile range given a proper antenna and line of site. One can get a pair of such transceivers with onboard microcontrollers delivered to your door by AliExpress for under $50US.

Most people aren’t aware that their cheap Chinese drones weighing more than 250 grams (which most except micro ones exceed) now need to be licensed, and that a drone pilot license is now required to fly a licensed drone (or RC aircraft) almost anywhere outside of officially designated hobby flying sites. There are likely 1000 amateurs engaged in what are now FAA illegal drone operations for every licensed drone pilot. I suspect that will start changing once a few more $10K+ fines are issued, but we aren’t there yet.


What if it was an actual person without a jetpack?

The Rapture is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed.


The skeptic in me says that, yeah, the drone carrying a dummy makes a lot of sense. The conspiratorial nut in me says its a sect of advanced superscientists from their secret base in the Earth’s core. OR, just as plausibly, the a parallel universe bleeding into our own.


I’m still thinking it could have been a mylar balloon. If you passed one of these babies at a few hundred knots it would be easy to mistake for a guy in a jetpack. (The one on the right, that is)

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The only issue there would be that balloons tend to bounce up and down like crazy. They, well, just look and move like balloons, really based on their movement in the air alone. I don’t think experienced pilots would confuse that for a “guy in a jetpack” because of that factor, although I mean, I could be wrong obviously. A worthy hypothesis to add to the others, though!

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I’m not a commercial pilot but I have flown Cessnas past balloons at a few thousand feet up on a couple of occasions. Compared to the speed of the plane the movement is negligible, and would be even less significant compared to a commercial jet. Also, keep in mind that the plane is traveling through the same air mass as the balloon, so any sideways drift or whatever due to wind would also be acting on the plane.

Movement aside, it’s always been notoriously difficult for pilots to accurately identify the size, speed and distance of flying objects that aren’t already known to the pilot, such as other planes that are of a known size. With no good points of reference, especially on a clear day, it’s very hard for human eyes to judge distances for objects that aren’t fairly close. Add in the fact that the pilot may be moving hundreds of miles per hour relative to the object and it becomes even more tricky.

So yeah, I think it’s very possible that it was a novelty balloon. Even if it was only 1/2 to 3/4 the size of a human adult that would be very hard to for a pilot to tell.


Aww, I was hoping for aliens. Wait, aliens have drones, too, right?


I’d like to fly this drone into the back yard of every senator who votes against impeachment.

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