Re-imagining Human Flight｜Richard Browning｜World Knowledge Forum 2019
Hi. Everyone hello. Thank. You. It's. Always more fun doing, these talks after, having done a successful, demonstration rather, than doing it afterwards, because, with any live technology. Demonstration, there's always a good chance you stand there and you. Know nothing works we haven't fortunately, had that, happen, hardly, ever really and that was event 88, in 28. Countries where, we've done this now so I still assume the worst though so I'm glad that worked fine I hope, you didn't get blown, too much of the garden, debris out there what, I'm going to do with you is share with you the story, behind. What. You've just seen and then, also fairly, swiftly go on to some of the stuff we've done in the. Last 12. Months that is taking this even further because some of you might have seen maybe the original TED talk we did a. While. Back so forgive me for those of you seen some of the origins of this so. I was. An oil trader in the city of London for about 16 years I spent some time in the British Royal Marines Reserve. I used, to run ultra marathons I like, a crazy, challenge this was clearly, in the bucket of crazy challenges, and I. Had this idea that if I if I fail elight and I was reasonably strong from the calisthenics, training and the Marines training I thought I can support my own bodyweight in a series of kind of gymnastic. Positions, surely. Logically, my new logic doesn't apply to much of this journey logically. I can support myself on, some, form of propulsion some, thrust if I could work out a way of putting it in the right places and I could use my brain as the balancing, machine and my, body is the flight structure, no. Real practical reason other than I thought it would be a cool challenge that, was it so, alongside my day job I started playing around with it part. Of my inspiration as, well is that my late father was an. Aeronautical engineer and I think that probably left. A big impression on me as a kid learning. To fly model gliders, you know when, I was about sort of 10 years old I used to make those things and watch. Them usually crash and probably learned a lot about aeronautical, engineering that I didn't realize having done that however. That's all that's all great this. Is a good little example, of how formidable. The human frame the human body and mind can be if you put your mind to something look at what them you know the mind and body can achieve from a balance and a strength point of view so.
You Know it's a good example of that but you're missing something you're missing horsepower, now you've had the, surprise. Already, revealed, out there but this. Was the Ground Zero moment when I started playing with those engines, this. Was in March 2016. That. Is one of those little jet engines and, it's. Putting out about 22, kilos, of thrust and only. Weighs about two kilos such an amazing, ratio does, drink a lot of fuel the, fuel is sitting in a container inside, that bucket at that stage it was pretty basic but that taught me a lot it's, just a push it wasn't trying to rip my arm off it wasn't trying to rotate my arm off it's, just like a holding a fire hose of water so, emboldened, by that experiment. We went on to try. This which. Is now I'm now mobile and I've now got two engines and you can get an idea of the 50 kilos of push when. I try and hold them out horizontally, it just shows how strong that was. There's. A theme you'll notice in these clips early on so. That's now four of them and now. I'm not coming down quite so quickly it's still not enough for us to get me off the ground and me and the equipment particularly but. It was really starting to get there we, tried a number of different experiments this one was an, unsuccessful attempt, to use a tether but. The problem is with the tether is it's like a fifth, force you've got one two three four. And, you're tryna sort of balance all of these and every time you drift from that tether the tether would pull you back again so it's now five things to think about so it. Would didn't really work so I had to settle for falling, over when it didn't work very well this, was an experiment, of using six engines it was just way too much weight and -, frankly. - frankly, terrifying. So. We settled on this idea of one on each arm because between one on each arm it feels like it's going directly up your arm it just felt quite logical, and I thought well legs you know you like to take your weight really nicely so why don't you stick an engine on each of them but, as you saw in that clip I tend. To bend my leg just to the last minute which would tend to rotate me but we persevered and then. In in, November 2016. So not very many months after starting with one engine we. Managed to do this. Still. Fighting my leg but. It was a. Six-second, actual, coherent, little flight so.
That. Was quite a watershed moment that, was the moment when it went from a ridiculous, idea to something that actually was, demonstrated. You know demonstratively, it actually worked, there's. A nice little show real now of what we've since gone on to do in the interest of time this is this is a scattergun, of some of the events around the world you'll notice just like the suit out there it doesn't have engines on the legs anymore they, gradually, went, higher and higher until they were stuck on my posterior, which, was better but, then we consolidated, them into one larger one just because it's more reliable starting. Vertically, the, other problem with on them on the legs is that they tend to dig a hole in the ground wherever, you kind of walk and finally. The worst problem. Is you. Bring your arm past they. Sometimes suck, in the hot exhaust from your arm engines and then that melts all the blades out which was a really. Bad outcome. This. Is a little summary, we've. Got any music on this should be some music on this anyway this is a scatter of all over the world as I say we we've, had the you. Know ridiculous, privilege of going to some ludicrous places, and not only testing, the equipment but sharing, with you know great people like you guys you, can see the balance and control is kind of ridiculous and. What's really nice is I can now train our pilots, to do the same kind of precision you saw how still I just stood in front of you it's just effortless, I'm not thinking about anything I could do a crossword while, I'm hovering there and it's because and where's, where I don't know where the neuroscientist, who probably got lots here but there was a neuroscientist, I was talking to earlier it's, because the human brain is such a ridiculous, balancing, machine, you know Boston Dynamics have spent millions.
Probably, Almost billions, to achieve that with the robot and we. Do that without thinking so all I've ended up accidentally, doing is, tapping. Into the, same skill, that we have but just adjusting, it a bit all I do if I want to go up I just gradually. Bring the engines down and I rise up if I want to stop going up I flare them out again and come down if I want to go this way I just tilt it out a little bit it's in it's entirely intuitive. We've. Been all over the world I, haven't. Got time I don't think to go through the, investment. Story but I accidentally, raised her. $650,000. In a car park from Adam. And Tim Draper just. Before I did Ted 2017, that, was fun now that's the only VC money we've raised all the rest has been self generated, through events and things like that. As. An. Example of a more fun event recently for those of you know who know, Ken Block is the quite, famous kind, of rally stunt driver. At Goodwood we decided, to have a bit of fun this, year it's. A nice demonstration again, of the manoeuvrability. And. Control. Again you just think where you want to go there's a sort of aerial donut. I'm, gonna I'm gonna skip through that one cuz it goes off into the wild although I actually hang on I'll, show you the bit where you need to nearly kill me I had, a great plan with Ken which was that he was gonna drive towards me and drift his car around me because the previous stunt driver had done exactly that but. I thought actually I better just jump over him in case he gets it wrong and he did get it wrong he would have just swiped me into the crowds that anyway that's. Ken. Now. I'm quite proud, that despite, this being you. Know something, I did for fun it. Is actually, a commercially, successful venture. We, did raise that money accidentally, in the carpark from Tim and Adam but since then we've generated over three million dollars from doing events from, doing TV from, doing promotional, things we've opened baseball stadiums, in Japan we've done car launches in China, and. We've even sold a couple of suits but, also we train people that come along customers, who want to come along and experience, this we actually do a flight training. Kind, of offer in in places like this so you get tethered, so you can't fall over and you just progressively. Work through the power levels and a, bit like a child learning to ride a bike there's a moment where you just get it I don't, think I left the slide. In where there's one of my team managed to learn it in four minutes which I have to say it's highly unusual but he was off the tether and flying around within four minutes of training, this learning, this that's. The last suit we sold for about four hundred and fifty thousand four hundred and forty thousand dollars we. Prefer to train people and kind of lease them for use rather than sell them it'd be a bit like selling a Formula One car that is a thousand. And fifty horsepower suit, that will take you over the top of that hotel and go for another couple of miles if you really want to it's. Fine if you know what you're doing with it but if you don't it's you know probably gonna be our problem, let's. Go on to the next one, it's. A really it's, kind of a kind of an obvious thing really but if you want to get kids, attention and I've got an 11 year old and a 12 year old two boys if you want to get their generation, stop looking at a phone or an iPad if you go and land a jet suit to their school that tends to get their attention so, we've done as much as we can fit into the ridiculous diary we have of doing stem, outreach. Now. As, that. Says this is only just a start we've. Had this amazing impact all around the world wherever we fly it I mean your best to judge I mean I haven't, found many people walk away from that and then find that a bit dull so we. Decided, that actually due to that demand we've then, we're. Planning, to scale this into a race series so. If, this. Is a little bit of a show, reel of some of what we can do and then. There's another clip from a secret bit of filming we did with a Netflix. Competitor, in California, that might show, this as a, series, but, the idea will be a whole bunch of pilots guys and girls from ideally, different sporting backgrounds, who, will get together to. Race a bit like the Red Bull Air Race around like inflatable, pylons over water so it's safe if you go in the water it, doesn't do the equipment much good but it's not that expensive to get it back up main thing is it makes it safe and then. Actually. Run that as a race series all over the world because it turns out most cities have a river, a lake, or a sea front and. What's really nice is it really brings a sort. Of Marvel, superhero, thing to life but you you've got the human being right at the front and center of it unlike drone racing where the.
Humans Not really out in the front they're kind of behind the scenes so, that that's that's progressing. Really well and this little clip it's. Shot on an iPhone because I'm not allowed to show the proper footage but there's four pilots racing and within 30 seconds to go straight in the water I'm. Touching on here for, this audience some of the technology, behind the suit you just saw there it's. All 3d printed now so all of that that black and white plastic, is all 3d printed and the, arm assemblies, there's, not as much aluminium on them as they used to be because we're actually reducing, the cost hugely. There. Used to be about 40,000, pounds for the pair without the engines and now we've got them down to more like about $15,000. By, more, smart printing. But we. Employ additive. 3d, printing in pretty much everything we do and it's perfect, because we, barely build a suit, that's like the last one every single time we fly one we come up with new ways of improving it, so the the, iterative, pace, of improvement is pretty rapid. So. The ones I was just flying at those ones for instance this is all aluminium 3d, printing and this is all polymer, and it's, great you can make it you know almost any shape you like. Now. I've, got the privilege next, week actually not next week this week Friday, of being in LA, giving. The annual. Talk to the Society, of experimental, test pilots a, bunch of astronauts, and mostly. Military jet fighter pilots and this is the subject that they're most interested in if I'm really honest this is the subject I find really, exciting so. What I did out there was could. Be described, as vectored, thrust flying, so I'm flying around blowing air downwards, and you know you can see it's all very accurate and that's great what. Happens if you start going faster and faster well you get air flow so, you even feel it hitting your body and your body starts to go flatter and flatter, what. If you started to eventually, even deploy marvel. Style, superhero. Style actual, wings into the airflow you'll, actually start generating, lift in a much more efficient way than just blowing air downwards so, this is the journey we've been on in the last sort of eight nine months alongside all the events and everything to. Try and explore that and it started out in in, pretty much the same way as everything. Messing, around in that case with model aircraft wings, but, essentially. Flying around with some experimental, wings at a horrendous, angle of attack in. A really crude way and to. Try and just start to experiment what it felt like you, get the idea that was one, of the first points we started out let's travel hopefully have more luck here here you go this, is the, kind of R&D we were doing why, not just get strapped actually that wasn't me that was one of my colleague strap him to the back of a unlovely dodge truck which goes surprisingly, fast backwards and then. Drive across an airfield and start to play with different, angles of attack and different air foils we, even tried, a. Cut, down 50% scale, hang glider wing as well what. Actually turned out to work better was an experiment, inspired by this guy here and his suit the. Idea of having particularly, a leg wing that. Would disappear. If you did this or actually inflate if you did this because those scoops you can see there would take in the air that, started, to look really quite quite.
Positive, So, hopefully if this next clip works you'll see one of the first tests, we did with it this. Is one of the first tests we did in earnest with not only the leg wing but, also the upper body wing so. You get the idea. I, started. Progressing faster, and faster and this was a bit of a live test really as it, as it goes on I get faster and faster and go flatter and flatter what's. Really cool is that there's no guidebook on how to do this the, guide book is being written whilst you're in the air traveling. At 100 kilometres an hour trying to get to the island on the other side thinking why, don't I try this and then you feel something horrendously no I won't try that again and you're actually live, in the moment feeling, the airflow it's quite, a ludicrous, experience, this, is working great now love it so. You're 60 miles an hour see it didn't take me very long to get to cross to the other side there. Yeah there's an fpv shot as well so, the the leg wing is doing a really good job I'm not really convinced to the upper body wing there, but. It wasn't it wasn't too bad so. If I'm, gonna flick to the next one and. Let's see if that's gonna run well, right. This is a 360. Camera shot so. What I've now added is, something called strikes leg strikes their little fins. Like this on, my legs and the, way you should think of them is a bit like the feathers, on an arrow when, you fire an arrow and arrow keeps going straight because of the feathers on the back the. Effect was remarkable, it meant that I wasn't feeling like I was sliding I was, actually going really really, flat and I could start to slow slide, my arm engines, more and more behind me to go faster and faster and you'll, see from the speed in a minute down the bottom corner. In. A second, I don't why my foots flapping I forgot a flappy foot problem because I had that rack in the farmyard two years ago, looks, always gonna come off but, anyway whatever, it was doing it worked if you look at the speed down there I think we touch 119. Oh no, we. Do touch 119, km/h, there. We go. That's. Quite a magic feeling I have to say. Then. You can see this is then the transition, back out of aerodynamic, flight back, into, putting the power back up again and then come back in break break break stabilize. And then land again something, the harrier aircraft and, the f-35, aircraft any.
Pilots And i've got three of those in my team used. To find a lot harder than i think it is when you're right inside, the machine like this this. Is only about two weeks ago these are these straight things have now increased massively in size, it's. Got so good that I can actually aerodynamically. Bank I've never experienced, that before that means I can actually using. The airflow pull round and Bank round and feel the g-force as I turn which, is an insane experience, now. In. The interest of time, I'm. Gonna, probably. End it there and I'm happy to answer any questions but there's one more thing I want to share to. Finish this off we. Have a very clear ethos, and it probably came from my oil trading, days about taking, risk to, do anything in life take some risk especially. When it's new and especially when it looks as ludicrous as this our, key rule though from an innovation point of view is take. That risk but analyze what is the worst that can happen what is the downside, of that happening, this is why I wasn't as high you know high as the top of the hotel today for instance if, I, can recover financially, reputationally. You know if I do something really stupid it's often tempting in an event to go and like surf, a bus as it goes past the event or something. Reputationally. Financially, but safety wise if we can't get back up again from an experiment, we're, being stupid because we can't keep that journey of exploring so everything we do as far as possible we cover the downside, risk if it means I've you know twisted. An arm or something then you know I'll get better I'm, gonna show you all, the, outtakes all the crashes all the learning, experiences, well let's really hope they don't go all juddery and stop but, this is the last two and a half years no one hurt themselves at any point believe it or not there you go so a lot of these are actually pilot error that. Was me falling off that was me just I didn't I forgot, I was still flying, at 20 miles an hour and I couldn't run at 20 miles an hour this. Guy just worried, when he saw the flag and let go of the throttle. That. Was a compressor, stool for, those technology. Enthusiasts, in the room that. Was an engine failure I knew it was coming so it's really low and then. My colleague and this next, one. He. Didn't see that one coming, that. Was quite a big one and. All the lifejacket goes off automatically. So he's fine, that. Was contaminated, fuel in the Maldives they put my fuel in an inner fabric, softener bottle only. Found that out after I. Ended. Up going for a swim this guy just turned too sharply same with this as you turn in an aircraft you need to pull on the power and, they both screwed this up. Gently. Slides into the water this. Is what I was trying to show you earlier see there's one crash look at that whack straight in the water very. Amusing and then, even more funny this guy here he goes headfirst there it would straight in the water. He. Jumped too early nothing wrong with equipment you. Can't superhero, launch if you do it too early and then, everybody laughs most of this one. Yeah. Thanks very much that was me because, we forgot to keep, taking the air at the top of the fuel bladders at an event it wasn't very high it. Looks worse than it was but um anyway. Those are all examples of, learning from. Mostly. Safe failure, there. Is loads on Instagram, particularly, at the take on gravity, page, there, this. Journey is only at the beginning it's, going to scale into a race series it's going to scale into flight experiences, hopefully even I was to having a conversation with somebody about setting up a flight experience, venue.
Here, This. Is only just the beginning and watch, this space thank you very much. You.