A UK entrepreneur has channelled the ambition of Marvel Comics' Tony Stark to create a working prototype of an Iron Man-like flight suit / jetpack.
While it's not quite up to the billionaire-philanthropist-playboy superhero's efforts just yet, the creator of the 'Daedelus' has filed a patent and has showcased its potential in a video which compiles a year's worth of trial and error before finally taking flight.
Ex-Royal Marine reserve and oil trader turned entrepreneur Richard Browning developed the suit under the banner of aeronautical-tech start-up Gravity, all over the course of 10 months from a garage in Salisbury, Wiltshire.
The prototype suit consists of six gas turbines separated into pairs which are then strapped onto the wearer's back and arms, a backpack holding twin fuel bladders and plenty of protective body armour.
If this sounds at all dangerous that's because it definitely is. Browning reportedly chose aviation fuel in order to avoid unwanted explosions, but that hasn't stopped a very real risk of the whole endeavour literally going up in flames.
"If I fell in some imaginably bad way and somehow burst my robust fuel system, I would just leak it very slowly on the floor," Browning told TechCrunch. "If I spent a lot of effort trying to somehow ignite that and it finally caught fire, I've got a fireproof suit underneath my kit and I'm never more than 30ft from two people with fire extinguishers."
The video (below) shows the gradual development of the flight kit, with Browning hopping and flailing around trying to get a feel for his contraption. It also documents his grueling physical training schedule.
The suit tests the limits of personal fitness. He describes the strength required to direct the jets as "severe". In order to fly, he must follow a strenuous workout regime; in a typical week's training he cycles over 150km and does three intensive calisthenics sessions. He also runs 40km every Saturday morning, starting at 2am.
The eventual flight is more like an extended hover, but he claims the rig is capable of much higher speed and height. "Despite being capable of flying at several hundred miles per hour, and at thousands of feet, normal operation sees the wearer flying at no more than a couple of metres," he told Red Bull.
Thanks to a partnership with Red Bull, the profile of Browning's Daedelus is slowly growing, although he appears to have little interest in turning the idea into a commercial venture. In fact, Browning sounds more interested in making sure the younger members of his family can get in on the action.
"We're messing around and seeing if we can adapt a couple of drone fans," he said. "We're going to mock up something for my boys, so they've got a sort of quiet, cold version of the same thing that they can leap around with."
The Daedelus suit is noteworthy among the growing number of jetpack inventions – such as the JB-10 by Jetpack Aviation – due to the way it allows for free movement of limbs to control the wearer's direction. Will Browning ever match the Avengers-worthy big screen version worn by the real Iron Man? Time will tell.