By now you’ve all heard about the flying car racing concept: Airspeeder. But there’s a new kid on the block: Gravity. This English based company wants to bring you jet pack racing! Whilst the jetpack might make the wearer look like a cosplay RobotCop, the results are pretty darn amazing. Gravity is also looking for test pilots from “all backgrounds”, so even you can give it a go!

TL;DR

The race for single person flight is taking off...
JetPack Aviation currently sell a jetpack and have recently launched a flying motorbike known as The Speeder. Franky Zapata crossed the English channel on his ‘fly board’ using a kerosene-filled backpack. Gravity Industries was awarded the world’s first official jet suit patent and is launching a race series by the end of 2019.

The racing series is set to be launched before the end of this year. Gravity is currently in talks with cities, broadcaster, and sponsors. Personally, I can’t wait but how realistic is a jetpack racing series really?

Jetpack Aviation

The idea of jetpack racing might sound completely crackpot, but Gravity isn’t the only one taking to the skies.

Then there is JetPack Aviation. Who offers a jet pack for the low, low price of $295,000 and , for those that don’t have that in the budget: jetpack experiences. They have been in talks with the military and have recently launched a flying motorbike known as the speeder. A limited run of 20 are available for preorder at just $380,000. The rest will be made for the military. There is a super cool CGI video of the Speeder flying around New York, although the reality of this, given airspace control regulations, is unclear.

Flyboard

Then there is Franky Zapata, the French who crossed the English channel on his ‘fly board’ in 22 minutes, on August 2019 using a kerosene-filled backpack. That’s 35.4-km (22-mile) journey,  over 25x longer than Gravity’s longest flight. He has also used water pressure to create some interesting propulsion systems and is now developing a flying car!

Rocket belt

And of course, who can forget the infamous William ‘Rocketman’ Suitor? Most famous for his 1984 LA Olympics flight. His rocket belt was powered by hydrogen peroxide.

Gravity

On 14th March 2019 Gravity Industries was awarded the world’s first official jet suit patent for its multi-gas turbine engine jet suit. The first time I saw the footage I couldn’t believe the control and the dynamic. It looks like it came straight out of a Hollywood movie. The official patent even contains a reference to Iron Man’s suit. Better tell Tony Stark he’s in breach of patent!

Fire, helicopters and jet packs, what’s not to love? Image credit: Gravity.

The design broke the world jet suit speed record in 2018 at Bournemouth Air Festival, so we can be sure that races will be fast!

Gravity jetpack specs at a glance:

Turbines 5
Weight (dry) 25kg
Weight (with fuel) 35kg (typical)
Fuel Jet A1 Kerosene, Premium Diesel
Engine 1050bhp / 144kg
Max Fight Time 4 mins (depending on conditions)
Max Speed 50mph+
Pilot Weight Limit 85kg
RPM 120,000
Altitude Limit 12,000ft (limited for safety reasons)
Max Distance 8 miles
Thrust 144kg
Power 1000bhp+

Currently, the maximum distance ever flown is 1.4km.

How the Gravity jetpack works

Two, micro gas turbine engines are attached to each hand with is around 44 kg of thrust against each arm. These are used to control balance and direction. A 5th, rear-mounted one provides the lift. The engines themselves are the same ones used for model aircraft.

jetpack construction workbench
Richard Browning (founder and chief test pilot) with his Jetpack on the workbench. Image credit: Gravity.

Richard Browning (founder and chief test pilot) also experimented with engines strapped to his feet, however, although these are mentioned on the official patent, he found that a rear-mounted engine provides a more stable lift. You can see Richard talking about the design process during his TedTalk.

The whole thing fits into two suitcases and incredibly, you’re even allowed the jet engines in your hand luggage! Although he assures us it does cause some confusion at baggage check.

Safety

The maximum height is around 12,000 ft and there is no ground effect. At low height the air hitting the ground creates turbulence and makes flight harder. However, the height limit is currently limited for safety reasons. This is because above around 150ft a BASE jumping parachute would, in theory, be sufficient for safety, however, if something were to go wrong in the space between 150 ft and 10 ft the results could be fatal.

The jet pack also has an electric cutoff switch “kill switch”.

jet pack
Whilst it does look a little like a cosplay Robocop outfit, I’d still love to give it a try! Image credit: Gravity.

There is currently no need to gain permission from the local aviation authorities to fly because the combined weight of the jetpack and pilot mean that it does not reach the weight limits for an airplane. However, Richard acknowledges that with the rise in people using personal flight devices this may change.

Real-world applications

Currently, the suit is little more than a fun gimmick and a chance for daring individuals to go head to head. However, Gravity thinks the jetpack has the potential for real-world situations such as search and rescue and military applications, much like its Jetpack Aviation cousin.

How would you take to the skies?

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