SINGAPORE: Iron Man taking off in front of a statue of Sir Stamford Raffles, kicking up dust and eliciting cheers from the watching crowd.
This is not a deleted scene from Marvel’s popular superhero film, but rather what happened on Tuesday (Aug 1) when British inventor Richard Browning – dubbed the real-life "Iron Man" – demonstrated his flying suit to more than 600 people outside Victoria Theatre.
Mr Browning, 38, powered up his suit on the Empress Lawn as he took off for a minute-long flying display. After he landed, the crowds rushed to get a photo with him.
“The starting point for this journey was to have a huge amount of fun trying to do something that was considered impossible,” the former commodities trader told Channel NewsAsia after his demonstration.
His journey began early last year as an experiment to achieve human flight by “combining the human mind, human body and some elegant technology”.
Now, Mr Browning’s suit has attracted interest from search-and-rescue agencies, military researchers and Hollywood producers, he said. Early prototypes of the suit have been sold to “high net worth” individuals for half a million dollars.
“In theory, you could have first responders with this equipment easily go a couple of miles quite low to the ground and get over any obstacle you want,” he added.
The six-engine suit weighs 45kg and can go “as high and as fast as you like”, Mr Browning said, adding that two of the engines on the 1,000-horsepower suit can make an airplane go faster than the speed of sound. “It can go faster than your neck can take the frontal load of air.”
In an earlier report, Mr Browning said the suit could carry a person thousands of feet in the air and go at speeds of around 450kmh. For safety purposes, however, he hovered just a few metres off the ground during the demonstration.
To take off, Mr Browning brings his arms – each equipped with a couple of engines – down to create vertical thrust. He also uses his arms for manoeuvring. “You can point them wherever you like, so I can stop, turn and go in three dimensions more elegantly than most (flying) systems,” he said.
He is also working on adding wings – which would allow him to glide in the air in the event of engine failure – to his suit to unlock its full altitude potential. “If we can transition safely up to a height of 150 or 200 feet, then you can rely on a parachute,” he said.
But when it comes to using his suit for “mainstream” purposes like public transportation, Mr Browning admitted there is a “long way” to go. “You’re not going to take the kids to school on these any time soon,” he said.
Because his suit only takes off vertically, it is “tremendously inefficient” in terms of how much fuel is used. “It creates a lot of noise and it does kick up a lot of dust,” he added.
Mr Browning was in town to give a talk at an event promoting science and innovation.
He said he hopes his invention can inspire people to make the impossible a reality.
“If you’ve got an ambition of something, start on the same day and try and find a safe and controlled way to make some progress immediately,” he said. “And look what can happen.”