Real-Life Iron Man Suit That Actually Flies
26 July 2018
We've all dreamed of flying, but for Richard Browning, flight is an obsession. He's built an Iron Man-like suit that leans on an elegant collaboration of mind, body and technology, bringing science fiction dreams a little closer to reality.
This Iron Man like suit was invented by Richard Browning, an ex-Royal Marine with the British Armed Forces, who has earned the title of ‘real life Iron Man’.
Richard Browning, founder and pilot at Gravity Industries, holds the Guinness World Record for the fastest speed in a body controlled jet suit, in which he clocked 51.53km/h. His flight suit ‘Daedulus Mark I’ is designed to incorporate five miniature jet engines, each providing 22kgs of thrust, with two mounted on each arm and one in a backpack.
It features 1,050 horsepower which sends you into the air and on your way. The ride is much more than just a real concept from a sci-fi film, it’s the future and it’s not even owned by the military.
The suit, dubbed “Daedalus” after the artist in Greek mythology who built wings of feathers and wax, is said to be able to lift a person up to 12,000 feet in the air.
Daedulus allows him to achieve vertical take-off and control his direction and speed of flight by using his arms. The suit comes with a helmet that displays fuel levels, safety performance indicators and Wi-Fi for ground monitoring.
“It’s an entirely pure form of complete three-dimensional freedom,” Browning told NBC News MACH in an email. He said the suit represents a “whole new area of human mobility” but acknowledged that it could take a while before jet pack travel really takes off. “Just like the first motor cars, which were noisy, smelly and inefficient…we have some way to go before you could commute by jet suit,” he said.
A jet pack, rocket belt or rocket pack is a device, usually worn on the back, which uses jets of gas (or in some cases liquid) to propel the wearer through the air.
The concept has been present in science fiction for almost a century and became widespread in the 1960s. Real jet packs using a variety of mechanisms have been developed, though the challenges of Earth's atmosphere, Earth's gravity, low energy density of available fuels, and the human body not being naturally adapted to fly mean that their uses are much more limited than their fictional counterparts', being principally used for stunts. A practical use for the jet pack has been in extra-vehicular activities for astronauts.
At the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in 2014, Astro Teller, head of Google X (Google's research laboratory), said they investigated jetpacks but found them too inefficient to be practical, with fuel consumption as high as 940 L/100 km (1⁄4 mpg‑US), and were as loud as a motorcycle, so they decided not to pursue developing them.
In recent years, the rocket pack has become popular among enthusiasts, and some have built them for themselves. The pack's basic construction is rather simple, but its flying capability depends on two key parts: the gas generator, and the thrust control valve. The rocket packs being built today are largely based on the research and inventions of Wendell Moore at Bell Helicopter.
One of the largest stumbling blocks that would-be rocket pack builders have faced is the difficulty of obtaining concentrated hydrogen peroxide, which is no longer produced by many chemical companies.
The few companies that produce high-concentration hydrogen peroxide only sell to large corporations or governments, forcing some amateurs and professionals to set up their own hydrogen peroxide distillation installations. High-concentration hydrogen peroxide for rocket belts was produced by Peroxide Propulsion (Gothenburg, Sweden) from 2004 to 2010, but after a serious accident Peroxide Propulsion stopped making it.
Bell Jet Flying Belt: Wingless
In 1965 Bell Aerosystems concluded a new contract with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop a jet pack with a turbojet engine. This project was called the "Jet Flying Belt", or simply the "Jet Belt". Wendell Moore and John K. Hulbert, a specialist in gas turbines, worked to design a new turbojet pack. Williams Research Corporation (now Williams International) in Walled Lake, Michigan, designed and built a new turbojet engine to Bell's specifications in 1969. It was called the WR19, had a rated thrust of 1,900 newtons (430 lbf) of thrust and weighed 31 kg (68 lb). The Jet Belt first flew free on 7 April 1969 at the Niagara Falls Municipal Airport. Pilot Robert Courter flew about 100 m (330 ft) in a circle at an altitude of 7 m (23 ft), reaching a speed of 45 km/h (28 mph). The following flights were longer, up to 5 minutes. Theoretically, this new pack could fly for 25 minutes at velocities up to 135 km/h (84 mph).
In spite of successful tests, the U.S. Army lost interest. The pack was complex to maintain and too heavy. Landing with its weight on their back was hazardous to the pilot, and catastrophic loss of a turbine blade could have been lethal.
Thus, the Bell Jet Flying Belt remained an experimental model. On 29 May 1969, Wendell Moore died of complications from a heart attack he had suffered six months earlier, and work on the turbojet pack was ended. Bell sold the sole version of the "Bell pack", together with the patents and technical documentation, to Williams Research Corporation. This pack is now in the Williams International company museum.
The "Jet Belt" used a small turbofan engine which was mounted vertically, with its air intake downward. Intake air was divided into two flows. One flow went into the combustion chamber, the other flow bypassed the engine, then mixed with the hot turbine gases, cooling them and protecting the pilot from the high temperatures generated. In the upper part of the engine the exhaust was divided and entered two pipes which led to jet nozzles. The construction of the nozzles made it possible to move the jet to any side. Kerosene fuel was stored in tanks beside the engine.
Control of the turbojet pack was similar to the rocket pack, but the pilot could not tilt the entire engine. Maneuvering was by deflecting the nozzles. By inclining levers, the pilot could move the jets of both nozzles forward, back, or sideways. The pilot rotated left/right by turning the left handle. The right handle governed the engine thrust. The jet engine was started with the aid of a powder cartridge. While testing this starter, a mobile starter on a special cart was used.
There were instruments to control the power of the engine, and a portable radio to connect and transmit telemetry data to ground-based engineers. On top of the pack was a standard auxiliary landing parachute; it was effective only when opened at altitudes above 20 m (66 ft).
This engine was later the basis for the propulsion units of Tomahawk and other cruise missiles.
|Written by: Peter Mateus|