Project Apollo

AA Patrols to 'park & fly' in congested cities

The AA is putting patrols in the air to combat congestion

1 April 2010

The AA is always looking at innovative ways of beating traffic congestion. In the last two years radical steps taken include:

  • Reintroduction of AA motorcycles in urban conurbations
  • Introduction of AA patrols on electric scooters in London
  • AA 'Smith & Wesson' mountain bikes used by patrols at major events including music festivals and Wimbledon
  • Specially adapted flood-busting Land Rovers introduced to beat the snow, ice, and floods

Despite these innovations, tackling severe road congestion and unpredictable weather conditions, is still a challenge for the UK's biggest breakdown company. However, help is at hand for the AA, which after 105 years with road-based patrols, is putting patrols in the sky for the first time.

The AA has secretly been running 'Project Apollo' based at Dunsfold Aerodrome near Guildford. Here specially adapted AA Jetpacks have been trialled to help patrols get to vehicles that other motoring organisations cannot reach.

The initial batch of fully-specified operational AA jetpacks will come off the factory lines later this year.

Watch the test footage on the AA's YouTube channel »

The AA jetpack specification:

  • Top speed 100kph (60mph)
  • Weight 113kg (250lb)
  • No pilot's licence required due to light weight
  • Hand controls
  • Satellite Navigation provided by Trafficmaster
  • Parachute
  • Lightweight carbon fibre tools
  • £42,000 cost per unit


Edmund King, AA president, said: "We are always looking at ways to get to our members quicker. Congestion is a growing problem particularly in urban areas, at Bank Holidays and in poor weather conditions.

AA Rocket Man will help us reach parts that other breakdown organisations cannot reach AA Rocket Man will help us reach parts that other breakdown organisations cannot reach. We are talking to the Government to get permission for 'jetpack hard-shoulder running' so that patrols can land on the hard-shoulder."

AA future technologies strategist, Dr Raif Lopol, said: "Despite advances in Jet Pack Technology (JPT), it is unlikely at this stage that AA patrols will actually 'patrol the skies' – fuel costs make that impractical.

"It is more likely that the AA patrol will employ the 'park & fly' system, whereby the AA patrol van parks within one mile of the stricken member and the jetpack is then launched from the rear of the van."

Stewart Topp, AA Patrol of the Year, said: "Our motorbike patrols in major cities have been a great success but they are still affected by traffic and accidents, so by literally going as the crow flies, we'll be able to shave minutes off our arrival times.

"The initial test flights have gone well – we've struck a good balance between stability and manoeuvrability – and we're working on an ultra-lightweight toolkit that should allow us to do most 'quick fix' repairs. Obviously, we won't be able to do any towing but the benefits more than outweigh this – it will be nice not worrying about potholes, for a start."


Video footage showing a number of test flights is available on The AA Patrol YouTube channel.

Online news coverage

Video - all tests

You can download the video too by right-clicking on the link below and saving the target to your pc. Shows all tests (57Mb)

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1 April 2010