British military interested in 'Iron Man' flying suit

Sarah Knapton
Richard Browning demonstrates his Iron Man suit in Vancouver 

Flying soldiers have been historically confined to science fiction or comic books, but a British inventor may be about to change the course of warfare.

Richard Browning, who has been dubbed the ‘Iron Man’ of Wiltshire, has constructed a personal flight suit and amazed delegates at this year’s TED Conference when he lifted off from the short of Vancouver Harbour.

Mr Browning, a Royal marine reserve, said a member the British military had already displayed interest in the suit, and had told him that the Ministry of Defence had given up on the idea of flying soldiers until they saw his design.

Although the MoD told the Telegraph they were unaware of the conversation, they said they are currently looking for ‘innovative military solutions’ as part of an £800 million scheme to improve defence.

British inventor Richard Browning  Credit:  AFP  GLENN CHAPMAN

The suit works using six miniature jet engines, or thrusters, which are attached to a rigid exoskeleton at the back and arms. It takes off vertically and can be controlled by moving the arms, while a display inside the helmet gives updates on fuel consumption.

In a demonstration in Canada, Mr Browning flew in a circle for nearly one minute, hovering a short distance from the ground.

He said he was inspired by his father, an aeronautical engineer and inventor, who killed himself when Mr Browning was a teenager.

"I did this entirely for the same reason that you might look at a mountain and decide to climb it - for the journey and the challenge,” he told reporters.

"My approach to flight was why not augment the human mind and body, because they are amazing machines, so I just bolted on what was missing - thrust."

 sing thrusters attached to his arms and back, Browning flew in a circle and hovered a short distance from the ground Credit:  AFP GLENN CHAPMAN

He has now launched a startup company called Gravity, which is working on a marketable suit which they are calling Daedalus.

"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 is moving it along," Browning said.

"I think of it as a bit like a jet ski, a bit of fun or a indulgent toy, but I do have a hunch that stuff will come along to make it more practical."

Mr Browning said the suits is capable of flying at 200mph (321km/h) and an altitude of a few thousand feet for around 10 minutes, and insists it is safer than a motorbike.

But he does not think that the system is about to go mainstream anytime soon.

"I think of it as a bit like a jet ski, a bit of fun or a indulgent toy, but I do have a hunch that stuff will come along to make it more practical."


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