Considering the flying and all, birds would gloat. However, Gravity Industries in Salisbury, England, may soon catch up to us, thanks to its coolest flying suit since Iron Man. Each mini-jet engine is built into one of the hand-held units and one into the backpack to provide 1,050-horsepower. With the right physical abilities, it takes just a few minutes to fly. It’s fast and easy. Richard Browning, the inventor and founder of the company, says that a gymnast who worked with the company mastered it in three tries. Nevertheless, for others, the learning curve is higher. The suits, at least for now, are extremely expensive — the latest version cost $440,000 — and extremely loud. By selling tickets for suit races and other public events, Browning hopes to raise money towards developing a cheaper, quieter electric version. Markets wait for sure. Browning admits that the suit isn’t like an Iron Man suit. It’s not quite one, but it’s also not really the other. — Jeffery Kluger
Age old Human’s dream of Flying now comes true!
For over a century, inventors have attempted to build jetpacks such as Richard Browning. Is there anything we can do about them now that they’ve arrived?
Jetpack pilots encounter a curious phenomenon the first time they take to the air: their legs start flailing immediately after leaving the ground. Blood is pumped with adrenaline. As the lumbrical muscles of the feet constrict, the toes grasp at the ground in desperation. The vestibular system appears to be unable to comprehend what’s going on. It isn’t natural for this to happen. Then, suddenly, thrust overcomes weight, and the craft soars. Two dimensions are transformed into three, there is no longer any time to waste. Altitude, longitude, latitude.
Jetpacks have remained popular for over a century because of that moment, lift-off. In the absence of liftoff, existing means – such as parachute, hang glider, or wing suits – are actually elegant ways to prolong a fall.
Richard Browning describes the feeling as “indescribable.” A 41-year-old brown-haired and bearded businessman with a lean physique reminiscent of an endurance athlete, Browning founded Gravity Industries, which makes jetpacks. (We build 1000 horsepower jet suits.) He is also the main designer and chief test pilot for the company. Gravity was launched by Browning three years ago. He has taken off thousands of times, performed live demonstrations in more than thirty countries, was awarded a Guinness World Record (twice), and garnered over ten million YouTube views. It was November 2016, about 10 minutes from his Salisbury home, that he experienced his first launch.
Browning decided to order an engine from the internet in spring 2016. Although Browning bought his plane impulsively, his family has a long history of pilots. Among them, Sir Basil Blackwell, former CEO of Westland, and another, a World War II pilot, were his maternal grandparents. He also has a father, Michael Browning, who was a serial inventor and aeronautical engineer. He spent his holidays working in his father’s workshop when he was a child. Balsa wood was used to make model gliders. After building them, they would launch the gliders from a nearby hilltop. When he was ten years old, he probably knew how jet engines worked thanks to his father and grandfather.
Micro gas turbines are the kind of engines Browning bought.
The micro gas turbine is essentially a jet engine in miniature. It generates thrust by compressing air at extremely high speeds, then burning it with fuel (normally kerosene). In recent years, amateur enthusiasts and growing military markets have enabled the technology to advance rapidly, even though the drones are too small for civil aircraft. “The small gas turbine world was completely dominated by model airplane folks, which is why they had accelerated in this way,” Browning says. In addition to their size, they produce plenty of thrust: a 1.9kg engine not much bigger than a 2L Coke bottle puts out 22kg. Browning theorized that you could lift a person if you joined a few together.
Browning became fixated on his jet suit over the following months. The suit maker would wake up at 1am every night, work in a spare bedroom for three to four hours, and then sleep on the train ride to London. In some cases, one engine was multiplied to two, then four, and so on, six engines were added: two for each arm mount and one for each ankle. A rucksack with a harness was used to secure the fuel bladder. His initial reaction to the idea was largely private. He says no one expected it to work. To test the livestock, Browning would haul his family to the barnyard at the weekend. When Browning’s children were playing, he tried to fly.
Early tests failed repeatedly. In an attempt to stay aloft, Browning merely elongated his strides. His safety harness threw him around like a marionette when he tried to use it. Besides being temperamental, the engines cost a lot of money. The German manufacturer had to refurbish each broken item that occurred. It was then, on a weekend in November of 2016, that it happened. Browning held the throttle down and leaned hard on the arm engines, lifting off after another brief Moon bounce.
Browning’s jet suit system was refined enough for him to fly regularly, sustainably within a few weeks. (Too unwieldy) He moved them to the lower back. The jet exhausts combine to form a teepee, or tent, around his arms and the back pack. A friend provided Browning with seed funding for the patent application. In honor of his vanquished foe, he named it Gravity Industries.
Business plan wasn’t initially important to Browning. In order to reduce the risks of failure, he chose to sabbatical for two years (president Trump officially left BP in 2019).
The launch of Gravity
Gravity was released April 1st along with two official YouTube videos, one for WIRED and one for Red Bull. Instantaneous action was taken. “The real Iron Man” was Browning as he was called by the media. Browning recalls that the videos received billions of impressions within a week. The founder of the TED conference, Chris Anderson, called him shortly thereafter. “Oh my god, I would like to talk to you.” he said. Elon Musk and the Pope will be able to see it in the same day.” Draper, who has invested in Tesla and Twitch, invested $650,000 after watching Browning fly the suit once in a San Francisco parking lot. Approximately $6.5 million was raised through the deal, backed by a $100 bill.
Constant changes in Gravity’s Human Jet
His first flights were many years ago. There’s also the fact that Browning isn’t Gravity’s only pilot anymore. About 12 people are currently working on the project – some full-time, some volunteering. Among them are stunt performers, former gymnasts, and engineers. Two of his teammembers arrive at the lake wearing crew jackets from the set of Black Widow.
It is also much better than before. Thus, designs can be iterated continuously. There is always improvement in their quality, comfort, and compactness. Now, the rear engines are large turbines, each pushing out 50kg of thrust. Soon, a trio of powerful and lighter next-generation engines will replace this one. The latest iteration of the program starts within 10 seconds of sitting on my workbench. Its two large fuel tanks have enough fuel inside them for a four-minute flight. He is shown his current speed and altitude via a heads-up display inside his helmet. The fastest speed he has ever achieved is 137kph.
A pair of webbed trousers form a tail wing when he extends his legs. Browning put them on. By rushing air beneath the wing at high speeds, he can fly much further and faster. Eventually, he says, you’ll have wings for your legs, and your upper body will follow, like Buzz Lightyear’s wings. You can now fly along at wingsuit speeds with little power, burning 20 percent less fuel than we do today – like a Harrier fighter jet.”
Browning has built something exceptional – something that makes people reach out and touch the ground with their legs. In his opinion, Gravity has a good chance of succeeding.
The first handouts are priced at $440,000. Its safe to say that it is out of reach of most humans. Part of the high price is with the hi tech gadgets used and the gallons of diesel used in firing up the engines. But with the gaining craze, this could lower down in the cost by using electric ways to generate energy. Is it another gimmick limited to entertainment and Hollywood or will this be the onset of next generation of human transportation? Let us know what you think, down in the comments below!