DARPA Will Test Flight Suits for Military Readiness

DARPA will test jet packs and jet suit technology and see if they are military use case ready. The gear must fly a single operator at least 3.1 miles at low-to-medium altitudes. The setup should take no more than 10 minutes, with only minimal tools.

UK based, Gravity Industries, will try to compete in the competition.

The gear can use emerging electric propulsion technologies, hydrogen fuel cells or conventional heavy fuel propulsion systems. They need to take off from anywhere without the help of wind or elevation.

The window for proposals closes April 20. Any winner will be paid $225,000 for the six-month trial, which could be extended to a second phase that pays $1.5 million.

The DARPA contest seems to be a bakeoff to see if any other competitor can match Gravity Industries jet suit.

The Gravity Industry flying suits can reach speeds of 80 mph. The suit has a power of 1050 bhp and is technically capable of reaching 12,000 ft altitudes, although it’s normally flown much lower for safety purposes. In order to keep the technology safe, Gravity also limits the majority of flying to over grass or water. They have a range of 6-13 miles.

With two micro jet engines on each arm and one on the back, their construction is not dissimilar to those found on aircraft. The triangle created by the position of the engines allows for movement to be easily controlled. It relies on a pilot’s ability to balance and requires some practice to get familiarized.

The MK 2 suit uses fuel (Jet A1 or Diesel, both non-volatile and far less dangerous than gasoline) and has a dry weight of 60 pounds. The flight time is currently 5 to 10 minutes. They are actively working on improving this number and delivering a quieter, cheaper electric version.

Adam Savage also made 3D-printed Titanium armor that is bulletproof and bombproof. The Titanium Armor is compatible with Gravity Industries suit. The Titanium armor costs about $350,000 and the flight suit costs $450,000.

This is potentially way more useful than the army exoskeletons that have been tested for the past decade. Army exoskeletons might make it easier for soldiers to carry 100 to 200 pounds. They are loud and cumbersome. Carrying a bit more weight is not as game-changing as enabling a new form of mountain assault or attacking boats or other unusual raids. The jet suits could give paratroopers unique capabilities.

There are some competing flight systems.

On Friday, February 14th, 2020, Vince Reffet took off, headed south towards Jumeirah Beach Residence, building speed and height. In 8 seconds he had reached 100 meters height, in 12 seconds 200m, 19 seconds 500m, and reached 1000m in 30 seconds at an average speed of 130 knots. At the end of a 3-minute flight punctuated by a roll and a loop at 1800m altitude, Jetman Vince Reffet opened his parachute at 1500m before landing back at Skydive Dubai. the Jetman and Jetwing systems are described at this site.

Unfortunately, Vince Reffet died in November 2020 in a training accident.

SOURCES- Fortune, DARPA, Gravity Industries, Lockheed, Jetman, BMW
Written by Brian Wang, Nextbigfuture.com