Following the UK’s successful testing of its own Gravity Industries’ jetpacks for its Royal Marine Commandos, the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is soliciting ideas for “portable personal air mobility systems.” This is Defense Department-speak for “one-person powered flight platforms, including jetpacks and powered wingsuits,” notes Popular Mechanics (PM).
These jet suits, explains PM, will allow troops to “zip across the battlefield to fight in cities, rescue downed pilots, or enter or exit the battlefield.”
The Royal Marines’ jetpacks, which cost $440,000 each, use micro gas turbines for lift and are initially intended as a way to quickly board ships at sea. As seen in this amazing video.
DARPA’s request may go in a much different direction, perhaps funding a stealthier, quieter system powered by small, lightweight batteries.
The DARPA solicitation states that:
Some examples of technologies of interest include jetpacks, powered gliders, powered wingsuits, and powered parafoils which could leverage emerging electric propulsion technologies, hydrogen fuel cells or conventional heavy fuel propulsion systems.
To get there, DARPA will pay up to $1.5 million in development costs to whomever presents the best ideas for a powered flight system capable of quickly moving a single person.
Kyle Mikozami explains what this translates to in real terms for the individual soldier, sailor, airman or Marine:
Whatever it is, DARPA wants the personal air mobility system to fit in one bag or box and be ready to go after just 10 minutes of assembly. The system should be capable of low- to medium-altitude flight and have a range of 5 kilometers (3.1 miles).
Ultimately, these flying suits could be used by specialized military units for combat search and rescue, Maritime interdiction, and special operations forces (infiltration/exfiltration), as well as “augmented urban combat.” Ironman may be closer than we think.