Watching Sam Rogers effortlessly glide around the ExCel Exhibition Centre car park, I have the distinct sense that I’ve suddenly teleported into the Marvel universe. Myself and my cameraman for the weekend, Aaron, have just about managed to arrive on time for this unusual spectacle. We’re out of breath, having bolted from the exhibition hall where we got distracted by Tim Peake, the nation’s favourite astronaut, loitering under a suspended installation of the moon, but too enraptured to notice.
What is this magical hangout of superheroes and spacemen, you ask? None other than New Scientist Live, the annual science festival for everyone from curious kids to big thinkers. Over the course of a few days in October, a variety of talks, workshops, performances, Q&A’s, plus all the latest innovations and discoveries all gather in one place for the public.
Gravity’s Jet Suit is one of these exhilarating innovations. The Marvel comparison has been made plenty of times before; in action, the Gravity Industries’ human flight suit totally evokes the one donned by the fictional superhero Iron Man. You are watching the impossible become possible before your very eyes: a fully functioning piece of machinery that, for the first time, allows a single human being to fly.
As Sam lands safely and waves the crowd goodbye, kids clamouring at the barriers like he’s a rockstar, I run through what I already know about how this impossible invention came to be.
Gravity Industries was founded in 2017 by former British marine turned inventor and entrepreneur Richard Browning, with the goal of creating a jet suit capable of vertical human flight. By October that year he had achieved his goal. Now, the suit is constantly enhanced and continues to evolve with the help of a small, passionate team.
Today’s Tony Stark (aka, Sam) is the Additive Design Lead and Test Pilot at Gravity Industries. He focusses on design optimism and additive manufacture of the jet suit, which I am gobsmacked to learn is entirely 3D-printed. I want to know all the finer details – how much does this thing weigh? Cost? How easy is it to maneuverer? – and more. Luckily, I get the chance to chat to Sam and he reveals all this and more, including an envy-inducing anecdote about racing over water against other suits!
Here’s our interview, with thanks to Sam and NS Live 2019.
Follow Sam on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/jettisam/
and Gravity Industries https://www.instagram.com/takeongravity/