Inventor Richard Browning achieved a Guinness World Record for the fastest speed in a body-controlled jet-engine powered suit last November
Real life Iron Man demonstrates jet engine flying suit in Dubai
Richard Browning has been compared with Iron Man superhero Tony Stark. Others might think he is stark raving mad.
By attaching miniature jet engines to various parts of his body, Mr Browning is able to achieve man’s dream of flying like a bird. Most of the time.
At the opening of Dubai’s GISEC security and technology conference on Tuesday , he soared around five metres in the air across a car park, landing successfully in a cloud of dust and at an ear-splitting 108 decibels, about the same as being in the front row of a Motorhead concert.
In the quest to develop his Daedalus suit - named after the father of Icarus who didn’t die after taking to the air in Greek mythology - he has more than occasionally come down to earth with a bump.
For his Guinness World Record attempt last November, for the fastest speed in a body-controlled jet-engine powered suit, Browning sensibly chose an artificial lake for the course.
After reaching a world record speed of 51.53kph over 100 metres on his third and final attempt, the video shows him plunging into the water in a cloud of smoke and steam, emerging with a broad grin and an inflated life jacket.
“A good flight is a good landing,” says Browning, 39. He describes the flight level options as “Water - high. Grass - lower. Concrete? Hmm.”
The suit is made up of six micro gas turbines, each capable of 22kg of thrust, or 1,000 horsepower.
Once an oil trader for BP, he is now on a career break to develop the suit’s commercial potential with his company Gravity.
Unlike the fictional Marvel character Tony Stark, Browning is not a billionaire, nor does he live in a mansion in Malibu.
His home is in the English county of Wiltshire, where he lives, perhaps astonishingly, with a wife and young family.
She is, he says, “very forgiving. She knew what she was getting into when she married me. Although even for me, this is off the scale.”
Having trained as a Royal Marine, an elite amphibious corps in Britain’s Royal Navy, Browning has maintained a high level of fitness, running ultra-marathons.
But he says the suit, which came from a personal vision of flying, can be used by anyone who is “reasonably fit”.
After looking at several different propulsion methods, he settled on gas turbines, which can be powered with jet fuel or diesel. The technique involves balancing the thrust by moving his arms and aiming at the ground. “In the early days, we were learning by failing,” he says. Once in the air, despite the noise and vibration, the experience is “strangely peaceful”.
The early version has developed considerably over the past year to give it the Iron Man look, with the addition of a heads-up display in his helmet that will usefully tell him how much fuel is left, something he previously had to guess.
Eventually, he hopes to take the speed to around 120kph, although he has yet to fly at a height that would need a parachute or feel worse than a tumble from a motorbike in the event of a crash.
No licence is needed to fly it. Much like the early days of drones, “there are no rules for new stuff”, he says.
The suit is now on the market for $250,000 (Dh918,000) including training, with the first sale already made. There are also military applications, with several special forces showing interest.
Browning, though, prefers to compare his flying suit to a jet ski. “What’s the point of a jet ski? It’s all about having fun.”