Could humans be getting closer to creating a viable flying device that allows a person to take to the air as freely as Robert Downey Jr’s Ironman character? If you’re a fan of solo manned flight, then you’ve no doubt seen video of the 1050 hp jet-engine powered ‘jet suit’ designed by British inventor, Richard Browning, founder and chief test pilot of Gravity Industries.
Video shot as recently as May of this year, shows Royal Marines testing the potential of the Gravity jet suit to enable Britain’s special forces to effortlessly and speedily board their destroyer or frigate from a moving support vessel.
Other flying machines to have completed test flights include the similarly styled ‘wingless jet pack’ created by Jetpack Aviation, a company founded by Australian David Mayman and American Nelson Tyler, and the 248 mph ‘jet wingpack’ designed by ex-Swiss Air Force pilot Yves Rossy who founded Jetman Dubai.
Then you also have the SkyDrive ‘SD-03’ flying car from Japan which boasts four pairs of propellors for enable electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL), in addition to the five jet engine powered Flyboard Air, developed by Frenchman Franky Zapata, and the DragonAir Airboard 2 which employs 8 propellors to allow eVTOL, among others.
And now, from Australia comes the CopterPack, a new single person flying device with a wearable backpack and two roughly 3-foot wide partly enclosed rotors reminiscent of a quadcopter drone. Revealing its drone-like machine in a video online in late May, CopterPack is the creation of an Australian company of the same name and incorporates a fuselage made of carbon-fiber honeycomb to minimize weight.
Key to this flying device, the rotors are enclosed on the outer perimeter of the blades, but on top and below, the rotors are completely exposed, suggesting that perhaps some wire meshing may be fitted to a later prototype to elevate safety levels. While the company says the CopterPack has a self-leveling feature, it is the rotor angle and vectoring movement that allows the vehicle to fly and achieve eVTOL. The ducted rotors are on a central axle allowing each propeller to tilt independently, forward or backward, for precision maneuverability.
While the company has offered little detailed information on the vehicle’s construction, range or speed, the pilot operates the device using joysticks fitted to controls on their waist-height armrests that are powered by what appears to be high density lithium-ion batteries. The flying range per charge is a mystery as well, but an educated guess given the current range of similar drones would be between 20 to 30 minutes.
As of late June, the company has not revealed any information regarding a launch date or pricing. But given that the Gravity jet suit costs around $440,000, or the price of a Lamborghini Aventador, expectations for the Copterpack to undercut $20,000 are high.