Twentieth century futurists had predicted that we’d all have jet-packs and flying cars by this point. Now, it looks like we’re one small step closer. An inventor from Wiltshire, England has built a jet pack of sorts that has captured the attention of investors. He took it for a test flight at the recent TED Conference in Canada.
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Richard Browning’s new device looks different from the backpack style jetpacks of science fiction. He’s calling it the Daedalus. The suit itself has an exoskeleton, and is powered by small jet engines. Four are mounted on the arms. Two are attached to the hips.
His demonstrations show how he can hover just above the ground and move around by shifting his body weight and the direction of the engines on his arms.
As this is still in its infancy, the testing has been modest. Browning believes there’s the potential for the suit to propel its pilot at very high speeds and he also thinks it will boost pilots to much higher altitudes.
“The hypothesis was that the human mind and body, if properly augmented, could achieve some pretty cool stuff,” Browning told the crowd gathered at the conference. “The whole journey was about trying and failing, and learning from that,’ he said.”
“I don’t think anyone is going to be going down to Wal-Mart with it or taking anybody to school for quite a while, but the team at Gravity [the name of his new company] is moving it along.”
“This is a momentous point in aviation history. Daedalus is simply the beginning of a core technology that has endless potential in aviation, commercial and entertainment applications.”
“I have aeronautics in my blood. My grandfather instructed on WW2 Hurricanes, and the other was Chairman of Westland Helicopters.”
“My father was an aeronautical engineer and an innovator, too.”
“We’ve already had a few comparisons to Tony Stark, but this is real-world aeronautical innovation.”
The reference to Tony Stark draws parallels to the Iron Man comic franchise. The suit is still a long way from realizing the dreams of would-be crime fighters, though.
Daedalus is a direct reference to the famed Greek mythological inventor. Daedalus built wings for his son, Icarus, who loved the experience of flying, at least until he flew too close to the sun. Those early mythological experiments ended badly.