The Real Life Iron Man
Ever since Isaac Newton saw the apple fall from the tree, mankind has been trying to defy gravity. Over the centuries, we’ve come up with all manner of contraptions to propel us skywards, but so far we haven’t managed to give individual people the ability to take flight whenever it takes our fancy. That is until now… In this article we’ll be taking a look at a man and his machine that are causing quite a commotion around the world, and whether the invention could make its way into the world of live events.
Richard Browning, an oil trader-turned-inventor from Salisbury, has built himself an anti-gravity suit. When I say anti-gravity suit, I really mean an Iron Man suit. This real-life Tony Stark began his experiment back in March 2016, when his company Gravity was founded. His dream then was to be the first man to fly, inspired by his late father’s passion for inventing and all things to do with flight.
When Richard started this project he didn’t want to just put a person in a flying machine, his aim was to augment both the body and mind with technology, challenging how we perceive the concept of human flight. His theory is that if you combine mind, body and machine, you can produce something quite brilliant.
Flying Daedalus requires a phenomenal level of physical strength. The ex-Royal Marine Reserve is no stranger to rigorous training regimes and is currently putting his body through up to 24 miles of running and 93 miles of cycling a week as part of his commute to his job as an oil trader in the city. He has also mastered the art of callisthenics, gymnastic strengthening exercises learned during his time in the marines. His physical fitness allows him to control the jetpacks strapped to his body, each with 130kg of thrust behind them, and support the fuel tank required to power them. Doing so for any length of time also requires a lot of stamina. This requirement for near-superhuman strength and endurance will hinder the project in terms of how widely used the technology could become – many people have neither the time nor inclination to train as hard as Richard in order to fly the suit.
A strong mind is key to the success of this project. Without the mind, the body, however strong, cannot function. Strengthening his mind and remaining focussed throughout the project hasn’t been an easy task for Richard – he’s had to teach himself how to instinctively react to the forces of the jet engines, so controlling the suit has become second nature. There have been failures along the way and the learning curve has been steep. Having the mental strength to overcome the obstacles and remain clear in his vision for the project has allowed the project to grow and progress to success.
The exoskeleton suit is called Daedalus, named after the father of Icarus in Greek mythology who invented the wings with which he and his son escaped the island of Crete. Although of course, we know Icarus ignored his father’s warnings not to fly too close to the sun, we can take heed from the fact that Daedulus landed safely (and was eventually granted a set of real wings by the Gods), giving us faith that the suit has potential. Richard’s suit is also thankfully made of much more durable materials than wax and feathers. Having been through multiple prototypes, the current suit is powered by six mini jet engines attached to Richard’s arms and back, giving him 800 horsepower that has so far propelled him through the air at 30 miles per hour. It boasts a visor that displays information on fuel levels, altitude and thrust – Richard truly is the Iron Man! This is just a fraction of its full ability though, and tests are continuing at Gravity HQ to improve efficiency, noise pollution and safety.
Where does that leave us?
The question is can we really bring this extraordinary piece of augmented technology into the mainstream and our industry? Well, maybe not the exact machine that Richard has created thus far – it is too loud, not fuel-efficient enough and only super-beings (like Richard) can control it. Further improvements and safety tests must be carried out before regular Joes could be let loose in the superhero suit – currently it is a health and safety nightmare waiting to happen!
But that is not to say that one day this astonishing piece of mechanical brilliance will not crossover into popular culture. Sure it’s got a way to go, and this raw idea needs to be nurtured, developed and refined so it can evolve into a commercial piece of machinery. It might not be tomorrow, next week, or even next year, but I predict that if the project continues to develop, within the next decade we’ll have clients queuing out of the door for the chance to send their key speakers into the heavens. Audiences will watch in awe as the presenter flies through the air from one side of the room to the other, delivering their speech as if it was a message from an ultimate power.
But why stop there? The flying presenters could be equipped with cameras to capture real-time in-flight moments, relaying to the screens in the plenary, making for an interactive and engaging conference. Imagine a Q&A session with the presenter flying across the room to stand face to face with audience members asking questions – much better than a fluffy microphone on a long stick that’s often used today! The possibilities are many, and this technology really is something to be excited about – staying ahead in our industry is all about exploring and embracing the hippest, hottest tech out there, and this suit definitely cuts the mustard.
Why not take a look at the flying man yourself? Click here to view the launch video.