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Maryland institutes rules for jetpacks

Tuesday - 8/19/2014, 10:22am  ET

JETLEV.jpg
In this July 19, 2013 photo, customer Victor Verlage rides a Jetlev jetpack operated by the company H2O Water Sports Powered by Seabreeze in Honolulu. New devices that pump water fast enough to make people defy gravity are drawing thrill-seekers eager to try the next new watersport, but Hawaii fishermen, scientists and state officials are questioning their safety and how they may affect fish, coral and other fragile natural resources in the islands. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)

WASHINGTON -- As jetpacks grow in popularity among Ocean City beach-goers, the state of Maryland is taking steps in the name of safety.

A JetLev is a water jetpack that you place on your back. When you turn it on, two heavy flows of water push you into the air and allow you to glide 30 feet above a body of water.

Julie Brown, boating safety coordinator at the Maryland Natural Resources Police, says it's a new phenomenon in Maryland. Relentless Watersports offers a jetpack experience for people in Ocean City.

"As you can imagine, flying up in the air ... coming down could be quite interesting," Brown says.

She adds that's why the state decided emergency regulations were needed to keep riders safe.

The Coast Guard considers jet packs "a vessel," which means that many of the rules that apply to other personal watercraft, such as jet skis, apply to the JetLev: Riders must be older than 16; life vests and helmets must be worn; flight sessions must take place 100 feet away from any other boat traffic.

Also, riders born after July 1, 1972, have to take a short written test first, and receive a certificate of boating safety education.

The biggest concerns are "the power of it, the quickness and the fact that's you're 30 feet above the water," Brown says.

People looking to rent out the watercraft must make sure a rescue boat is next to riders while they are flying. Rental operators must also have a Coast Guard captain's license.

So far, there have been no reports of injuries or unsafe operation in the state, and officials hope the regulations will keep it that way.

The emergency regulations kicked in June 20 and will remain in effect until official regulations come into play in January 2015.

EDITOR's NOTE: This story has been corrected to state the correct date for taking the written test.

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