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Iron Man fans rejoice! The flight suit that transforms Tony Stark into a superhero is now a reality! Called Daedalus Mark 1, after the mythical Greek craftsman most famous for the feather wings he, and his son Icarus, used to escape from the kingdom of Crete, it is the brainchild of British inventor Richard Browning.
The 99-pound exoskeleton is fitted with six small jet engines — two for each arm and two on the back — which together provide enough thrust for a vertical takeoff. Once airborne, the flight can be controlled using small, precise body movements. Browning, who likens the process to riding a bike, says while it takes a little practice to propel the jet-powered limbs, it is not difficult. The inventor explains, “The way you have to balance is pretty much the same stance Tony Stark has in the film. When [Stark] first builds this thing in his lab, he goes crashing into his cars. The animators who did all that in CGI obviously did some pretty big thinking. It was kind of a funny moment when we realized we should have just watched the film and done that homework.” The helmet, which accompanies the flight suit, protects the user and provides real-time fuel level and safety performance statistics. It is also Wi-Fi enabled to allow for ground monitoring.
Browning’s “mission to re-imagine the future of manned flight,” began in 2016. After trying several flying strategies like gliding with wings and electric fan motors, the 38-year-old came up with the brilliant idea of creating a real-life version of Tony Stark’s signature suit. His first successful flight, in early 2017, lasted mere seconds and lifted him less than 2 feet above the ground. But the inventor says, “That was the very first moment we properly proved this would work. That was it. You could get away with it.”
Daedalus Mark 1 first came to the world’s attention in November 2017, after Browning set a new Guinness World Record for the fastest speed in a body-controlled jet engine power suit for his 32- miles-per-hour flight. The inventor, who has since demonstrated the suit at 45 events across 16 countries, says that while it is theoretically capable of flying up to 280 miles per hour and reaching an altitude of 12,000 feet, he has yet to test that. In an interview with Redbull.com, Browning said, “The suit can fly in most locations. 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 meters."
Given the high fuel consumption rate of about a gallon a minute, it is not surprising to hear that the real-life Iron Man can currently stay airborne for a maximum of only 9 minutes. Browning hopes to extend the flight time in future versions by improving the fuel efficiency of the jet engines and adding wings!
Despite the limitations, Daedalus Mark 1 and its inventor have gained tremendous popularity worldwide. The former oil trader and ultra-marathon runner now spends his days giving corporate keynote speeches, demonstrating his jet suit, and training potential buyers to fly. Among his biggest fans is Hollywood superstar Tom Cruise, who purportedly began learning how to use the suit in early August. Browning also has a “really exciting” collaboration in the works with the British military and is in talks with the James Bond and Mission Impossible movies’ stunt coordinators for possible use of the suit in future films.
In July 2018, British luxury department store Selfridges announced that nine lucky Iron Man fans would be able to purchase a custom-made Daedalus Mark 1 flight suit for a mere $433,000 each. Bosse Myhr, the store’s menswear and technology director, says, “The Jet Suit is the equivalent to the launch of the very first airplane. We are on the cusp of an era where aeronautical technology can finally be in the hands of the consumer and we are proud to be the first to offer this.” While the high price, which includes full flight-training, is out of reach for most of us, fans of the suit can experience a virtual reality excursion — using content captured on a real flight — at the store without spending a penny.
Resources: Wired.com,standard.co.uk,sky.com, redbull.com