People have been dreaming about being able to fly themselves places without an airplane since someone invented the hot air balloon. So even before the airplane. We understand why, as we’re sure you do. Flying looks like a hell of a good time as long as you don’t have to deal with other people in your vehicle. After all, that’s what we complain about most on flights. The TSA, obnoxious flight crew, or other passengers are always the most infuriating part of a flight.
Jetpack doesn’t quite do Gravity Industries’ flight suit justice. It’s not quite so simple as strapping a backpack to yourself and blasting off across the wild blue yonder. This is a custom build, with 3D-printed parts, highly specialized electronics, and five separate small jet engines. And the jet engines aren’t solely on your back. In fact, it looks like you’re using your arms a lot more than anything else. You strap them in and hold on to the mounts, then direct yourself where you want to go. So it’s a little closer to arm jets than a Jetsons jetpack.
But all that’s just splitting semantic hairs over one of the coolest inventions of the past couple millenia. This is true, untethered, individual human flight. You can put this on and fly wherever you want, just like you always pretended when you were a kid.
We’ll nitpick a little more and say the suit’s a little on the slow side. It tops out around 32 m.p.h. That’s about the speed of a leisurely country drive or slightly faster than Usain Bolt’s fastest sprint. But what it lacks in stomach-dropping speed, it makes up for in vertigo-inducing height. The suit can achieve altitudes up to 12,000 feet, more than two miles up in the sky. That’s plenty high for us.
Something else that sticks out is how easy inventor Richard Browning makes his inventing process sound. He began work on the suit in his free time the way some of us pick up the guitar or learn Photoshop. He kept his day job and would work on his revolutionary tech at night and on weekends, making progress on a project he adopted because he “like[s] a challenge.” From there, he went full time, founding Gravity in his hometown of Wiltshire in rural Britain in the spring of 2017 and performing the first successful public test flight not long after. Obviously there are some Iron Man parallels to be drawn and plenty of people are doing just that. Browning has come to be known as Wiltshire’s Iron Man and is expected to take Robert Downey Jr.’s place after the next Avengers movie (not really).
You can also buy one of these. If you have $450,000. Though, to be fair, that’s a lot cheaper than we thought it’d be.