Gravity Industries’ Jet Suit is constantly testing and working on expanding its usage commercially, medically and to further greater flight capabilities
Human imagination combined with technological innovation certainly knows no bound. From the first flight that was taken in an aeroplane to consistent advancements that are now opening possibilities for personal flight. Technology is surely turning to be the humans’ super power allowing them to fly around and feel like super heroes straight from a Marvel movie. Not only is personal human flight a reality for entertainment or adventure, but it is also actually expanding further to save lives.
In one such recent example, the Lake District in United Kingdom is headed towards becoming home to the world’s first Jet Suit paramedic, owing to a collaboration between Gravity Industries and the Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS). Gravity has developed and patented a 1050 brake horsepower Jet Suit which recently took a test flight in the heart of the Lakes.
Gravity Industries founder and Chief Test Pilot Richard Browning flew from the valley bottom to a simulated casualty site on The Band, near Bowfell. The simulated casualty site would take around 25 minutes to reach by foot while the Gravity Jet Suit was able to cover that distance in 90 seconds, opening a range of possibilities in the emergency response arena.
Browning added, “It was wonderful to be invited to explore the capabilities of the Gravity Jet Suit in an emergency response simulation. We are just scratching the surface in terms of what is possible to achieve with our technology.”
Andy Mawson, Director of Operations and paramedic at GNAAS said that the exercise had demonstrated the huge potential of utilising Jet Suits to deliver critical care services. “In a time in healthcare when we are exhausted with COVID and its effects, it’s important to still push the boundaries. We think this technology could enable our team to reach some patients much quicker than ever before. In many cases this would ease the patient’s suffering. In some cases, it would save their lives,” he added.
Gravity Industries that was founded in 2017 and is led by the founder Browning who dared to ask ‘what if’. With its innovation in human personal flight through its jet suit, Gravity industries, is presenting a revolutionary picture for human flight.
|Launched||April 1, 2017|
|Started as a Jet Suit with one engine|
|Currently there are five built suits|
|Fuel||Jet A1 or Premium Diesel|
|Engine||1050bhp / 144 kg|
|Fight Time||Typically 1-3 minutes, up to 4 depending on conditions|
|Speed||Max forward speed is typically in excess of 50mph|
|Typical pilot weight not more than 85 kg with current Jet Suit|
|Altitude limit||Technically 12,000 ft but limited for safety reasons|
THE JET SUIT EXPERIENCE
Browning who has been flying the Jet suit says, “It is hard to describe what it feels like because it is such an intense dream-like experience. As you squeeze that trigger and feel the thrust come in, in a very gentle but powerful way and you feel your weight get lighter and lighter off your feet and then suddenly you free, the ties of gravity fall away and it’s just peaceful, and then you realise you can go anywhere you want. You can simply think about where you want to go and you go there, it is the ultimate realisation of the dream of human flight.”
The Jet Suit is the Mk2 Gravity Jet Suit. “We employ polymer, aluminium and titanium 3D printing processes to manufacture the system. The Mk2 consists of a pair of micro jet engines on each arm situated just below the elbow and between them it feels like the thrust is coming up through your arms. Then there is the larger engine on the back, either side of the larger engine we have twin fuel bladders which hold jet fuel or road diesel and can hold around 20 ltrs of fuel. Between those five engines there is enough thrust to lift a human off the ground,” Browning added.
The Jet Suit is controlled by vectoring, meaning once can control the flight by altering the direction of the arms. The Suit can typically fly for approximately 3-4 minutes and when fully fuelled it weighs around 30 kg. It is 1050bhp and produces 144 kg of thrust. The current record for fastest flight speed of the Jet Suit is 136 km/h / 85 mph.
The Jet Suit is controlled by vectoring, meaning one can control the flight by altering the direction of the arms. The Suit can typically fly for approximately 3-4 minutes and when fully fuelled it weighs around 30 kg. It is 1050bhp and produces 144 kg of thrust. The current record for fastest flight speed of the Jet Suit is 136 km/h / 85 mph. The flight time for the Jet Suit is typically 1-3 minutes, up to 4 depending on conditions and the altitude limit is technically 12,000 ft but limited for safety reasons.
Browning ensures that the Jet Suit is remarkably safe. However, he adds that its biggest risk is the pilot deciding to fly unsafely high over unsafe terrain. For this reason we limit the majority of our flying to over grass, water or low altitude, so the risk of failure is minimised and not dissimilar to falling off a motorcycle. We also never fly over people or property, which further mitigates any potential incidents.
The fuel we use is jet fuel or road diesel, both of which are, non-volatile fuels and are far less dangerous than gasoline. Jet fuel, for example, does not have a tendency to form a vapour cloud and is very stable, which is the reason jet fuel is used in aircraft. There is no heat issue as it does not percolate through or transmit through the equipment and the only heat coming from the Suit is from the exhaust which doesn’t come anywhere near the pilot and loses energy very quickly.
COMMERCIAL PLANS FOR JET SUIT
Talking about the commercial roll-out plan, Browning believes that they have been extremely fortunate to have only run one somewhat accidental VC round where the Drapers invested $640k at the very first event just prior to Ted 2017. The deal was signed on a $100 bill with the engines still cooling. Since then we have generated many millions of USD from a combination of commercial events, training clients and delivering numerous media and promotional activations.
“It’s worth noting that when it comes to engineering we are not afraid of failure in the relentless pursuit of progress, as long as failure is recoverable. We take a similar approach to our business plan: we explore many commercial opportunities with the resources we have generated. This allows out to rapidly determine commercial routes that generate revenue and stand-up in the current economic environment without additional and excessive investment,” he added.
Gravity that carries on the ‘do learn do’ approach, aims to continue that and grow their Race Series
Even when some routes do no pay them off commercially, Browning believes that even those give them invaluable learning for the way forward. He optimistically states that they are in “the privileged and but also challenging position of drawing on a blank canvas in this new industry of human flight. We have adopted this approach with the International Race Series and commercial client training, which are our two most significant areas of activity alongside public flight events.”
Gravity that carries on the ‘do learn do’ approach, aims to continue that and grow their Race Series.
When asked about the long-term plan, Browning states that Gravity has never slowed down in the relentless pursuit of ever greater flight capability. “We are committed to pushing the boundaries of what human and machine technology can achieve, and hopefully inspire the next generation to also dare ask ‘what if ’!
Browning also adds that apart from medical, military, and other streams, Gravity is more specifically focussing on the entertainment world. “Currently we offer commercial flight training to those who wish to join the select few who have experienced true human flight as part of our Flight Club at our home at the world-famous Goodwood Estate. Our International Race Series will offer a new dimension in sports entertainment, both live and on our digital platforms, celebrating the human endeavour and the spirit of adventure.”
Q: How far could one travel, before the suit needs to be serviced or refuelled?
Ans: Range depends on a number of factors including pilot weight, air temperature, payload and cruise speed. Most of our 100+ events across 31 countries over the last three years have seen us usually need to fly for only a couple of minutes, the experience is that intense and the speed and manoeuvrability we have allowed us to cover even the biggest crowd frontages several times in that window. However we can comfortably double that flight time and the latest Mk3 Suit can do more like 6-8 minutes if necessary. Over water we can comfortably cruise at 60mph (max recorded is 85) so it follows we are able to cover a mile per minute of flight time.
Servicing of the engines is highly dependent on the conditions they run in. If hot, dusty and gritty then, like a helicopter operating in a desert, they need far more frequent maintenance. But typically, the Jet Suit can run for a dozen flights a day for several days without any maintenance required, although we constantly monitor and assess for early signs of problems.
Q: What’s the longest anyone’s ever flown for? And do you need permission from agencies like the police to fly it?
Ans: Longest flight has been approximately four minutes but we can technically fly for much longer as above. As we do not currently fall into any aviation categories we do not require any permissions, we do work very closely with the CAA in the UK and FAA in the US to ensure we respect the existing rules and never pose a risk to other aviation, the public or private property.
Q: How heavy is it and what is the thrust to weight ratio?
Ans: The Suit itself weighs around 23 kg, we fly it typically with an additional 8 kg of fuel. The thrust to weight ratio works out to be around 1.3, which is slightly greater than any Jet Fighter we are aware of.
Q: How does the Gravity Industries Jet Suit work?
Ans: Five gas turbine jet engines generate 1050bhp and 144 kg of thrust to allow vertical lift and ultimately human propulsion (VTOL technology). Unprecedented Directional flight control is achieved by vectoring the arm engine thrust. The Jet Suit runs on Jet Fuel or Diesel and can also run on Kerosene.
Q: The evolution of the suit from Mark 1 to the latest released version?
Ans: Fundamentally it began with testing the power of just 1 jet engine, we then moved onto 2, quickly on to 4 engines, then 6. Eventually began flying with 6 micro jet engines attached to the body (one on the back of each leg and two on each arm). This Mk1 Suit, otherwise known as the Daedalus, was a crude but breakthrough starting point.
Constant evolution and enhancement has seen the development of the Mk2 which consolidated the leg engines into one larger engine on the back removing a lot of operating constraints and improving control hugely. This Suit design has been seen in action by millions all over the world and there are at least 6 operating at any one time. The Mk3 Suit prototype is already flying and represents a huge leap in just about every aspect and was expected to be revealed at the end of 2020.