Many have tried — yet all have failed — to defeat gravity. However, a five-year-old company aiming to re-imagine the future of human flight and pioneer aeronautical innovation, Gravity Industries, perhaps has its namesake on the ropes.
British inventor Richard Browning, Gravity founder, has designed, built, patented, and flown the world’s first propulsion suit — which is doing its fair share to TKO gravity.
Using jet fuel as a means to power five gas turbines, the suit can propel pilots about 40 mph for up to eight minutes and can generate more than 1,000 horsepower. Pilots wear two gas turbines on each arm and a larger turbine on their back; the turbines burn kerosene jet A-1 fuel and blast hot gas out of their exhaust nozzles for propulsion.
The suit features compressors, combustion chambers, shafts, turbine blades, a display helmet, a harness, and selective laser sintering 3D printing.
What’s even more incredible about the jet suits is that any average person who so desires — and boasts the necessary disposable income, about $3,500 plus VAT per person per day — can partake in a Flight Experience. The Flight Experience includes a flight demo by one of Gravity’s pilots, jet suit familiarization, and three powered runs on the tethered training rig.
For the more audacious average person, Gravity also offers Flight Training, which boasts, in addition to individualized flight training programs, the chance to enroll as members of an exclusive community of jet suit pilots as well as the chance to compete in the upcoming International Race Series. The training costs a bit more — $8,500 plus VAT per person per day — though.
Gravity offers a pair of locations for its training courses. One is The Goodwood Estate (“Goodwood is where we call home,” Gravity notes on its website), based in Chichester, U.K., about an hour from London or Heathrow. The other is Air7 in Camarillo, Calif.
Gravity is determined to put the suits to more good use. Sam Rogers, Test Pilot, Lead Designer, Gravity, tells Tech Briefs that the company has paramedics trialing the suits to reach and stabilize people trapped at high altitudes, is performing ship-to-ship flights with the special forces, and has the aforementioned race series in the works.
Here is a Tech Briefs interview (edited for clarity and length) with Sam Rogers, Test Pilot, Lead Designer, Gravity.
Tech Briefs: What inspired the design and creation of the jet suit?
Rogers: Richard Browning invented the Jet Suit just for the challenge of re-imagining human flight.
Tech Briefs: What were the biggest technical challenges in design and development?
Rogers: Iterating the engine locations and positions around the body to where they are today, a backpack and two arm mounts. Now the challenge is productizing the suit into a device as easy to use as a consumer drone.
Tech Briefs: Can you explain in simple terms how the jet suit works?
Rogers: Two arm mounts and a backpack, each mounted with jet turbines, allow a human to fly by creating a “tripod” of thrust. In-flight, the suit is controlled by body and arm position.
Tech Briefs: How much of the suit is 3D-printed? Which 3D-printing materials are used?
Rogers: Almost the entire suit is 3D-printed in nylon, polypropylene, and aluminum.
Tech Briefs: How far has the jet pack technology advanced since Gravity’s inception in 2017?
Rogers: The suit is an easier-to-use piece of equipment, more capable, and it’s simpler to learn to fly.
Tech Briefs: What’s the next step with regards to your research/testing?
Rogers: We’ve never built two suits the same, they’re always improving with every design we print. Higher thrust for more equipment-carry capacity, faster startup, and ease to fly are improving rapidly.
Tech Briefs: What’s the real-life application of the jet suit? Is Gravity working with the military on any projects?
Rogers: We have paramedics trialing the use of jet suits to quickly reach and stabilize a patient on a mountain; we are performing ship-to-ship flights with the special forces; and we have a race series in the works. See our YouTube: Gravity Industries; most of our recent tests and development end up on our socials, you can follow us @TakeOnGravity
Tech Briefs: How far away are we from these jet packs becoming available to the average person? From being completely ubiquitous? From the Jet pack racing league?
Rogers: The racing league is the most likely, this is in progress. Jet suits are very loud, so you probably wouldn’t want all your neighbors to be commuting in them.
Tech Briefs: Do you have any advice for design engineers aiming to bring their ideas to market?
Rogers: Take photos and videos of everything you build — whether it works or not. Document your builds, failures, and successes so you can show people you want to impress that you can actually build things in the real world.
Tech Briefs: Anything else you’d like to add?
Rogers: Most of our recent tests and development end up on our socials, you can follow us @TakeOnGravity.