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It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s Yves Rossy!

I am still buzzing about Yves Rossy's historic flight last Wednesday over the Swiss Alps. In his honor, here are some pictures from the Daily Mail:

(More pictures from Impact Lab.)

I am so excited by this endeavor because it fuses together cybernetics and aerospace in a way that has never been seen before. See this excerpt from the Daily Mail article:

After one last wave to the watching crowd, Rossy dipped his wings as he prepared for the piece de resistance, a manoeuvre he hadn't tried before...He flipped onto his back and levelled out again, executing a perfect 360-degree roll that even a bird would find impossible.

"It's like a second skin," Rossy said later after landing on the shores of Lake Geneva.

"If I turn to the left, I fly left. If I nudge to the right, I go right."

He remarked that he couldn't enjoy the view because he had to keep so concentrated. As Bob Mottram remarked in the comments section, if the flight surfaces were computer-controlled, this would simplify matters and eliminate the stress factor for the flier. The parachute could be triggered to automatically open in case of an emergency.

Here's some specs:

The four Germanbuilt model aircraft engines he currently uses provide 200lb of thrust each, enough to enable the 110lb foldable carbon wings, and Rossy in his 120lb flying suit, to climb at 200ft a minute.

I can only imagine the performance increases if the weight of the wings could be decreased by several times, which could be possible in the next couple decades through advances in materials science. For instance, the cost of bulk diamond is plummeting, making it conceivable that it could be employed as a construction material for aerospace applications in the 2020s.

What are Rossy's future plans?

With his first big test under his belt, Rossy, 48, is ready for bigger challenges: he plans to cross the English Channel later this year, before attempting to fly through the Grand Canyon.

To do this, he will have to fit more powerful jets to allow for greater manoeuvring.

Flying through the Grand Canyon on one of these? Reminds me of rebel pilot training in Star Wars.

Rossy was able to reach speeds of 190 mph in his flying wing, exceeding the maximum speed of the Pilatus PC-6 he jumped out of, which is only 150 mph.

I wonder: how fast will these things would be able to go before they run into some fundamental limit? Could one of these potentially break the sound barrier (652 mph), or would it be ripped to shreds?

Comments (47) Trackbacks (1)
  1. Yves Rossy is my new hero!

    I’ve wanted to fly since I was a kid and saw RocketMan for the first time. I’ve been following this guy for awhile now, and this is by far his most impressive flight.

    I got the same rush of adrenaline when I first saw people gliding down rock faces in Wing Suits (look it up on youtube.)

    Rossy defiantly holds in him the spirit of aviation. I just hope one day we can all experience what he is experienced last Wednesday.

  2. I have gone parachuting twice. On the first occasion I went up in a small prop plane. the unnerving part was that we were kneeling directly on the floor which was a thin aluminum membrane and I could feel the vibrations and air going by the skin. Then as part of the jump, I crawled out and held onto the spar supporting the wing. I was nearly horizontal with the wind blowing past at 150mph.

    Actually having the wind going past you at those speeds is freaky.
    I tip my hat to Yves Rossy.

    I believe that the gear needed for a highspeed rocketpack is similar to the skydiving from the proposed skydiving from space gear.

    I believe the fastest freefall to date is 614 mph from 102,800 feet by Joseph Kittinger

  3. Very cool indeed!

    Youtube video here:

  4. Improvements to personal wings through industry diamonds? Sounds a bit like daydreaming to me :)
    I dont think there is a market for these wings, it is just too dangerous. Although I have to admit, my last sentence reminds me of one of these failed predictions, I think about the radio, “The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value.”

    I’m a bit sceptical about the use of diamonds as a light-weight, elastic material, but then again, I didn’t read into that. Diamonds are inherently inelastic, i.e., break. But that’s true for glass as well and we can make highly elastic fibreglass compounds.

  5. Aggregated diamond nanorods, then. The next generation of aerospace materials will be based on some allotrope of carbon, I’m predicting. Also, you basically answered your own question in the last sentence.

    Even though diamond is inelastic, it could still endure more load than the fiberglass/kevlar wings you see here.

  6. there is/was the carbon fiber mono-wing for military special forces applications. This looks like a variation of that. They were thinking of small engines for those as well.

    The lightweight carbon fibre mono-wings will allow them to jump from high altitudes and then glide 120 miles or more before landing – making them almost impossible to spot, as their aircraft can avoid flying anywhere near the target. The technology was demonstrated three years ago when Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner – a pioneer of freefall gliding ‘flew’ across the English Channel, leaping out of an aircraft 30,000ft above Dover and landing safely near Calais 12 minutes later. Wearing an aerodynamic suit, and with a 6ft wide wing strapped to his back, he soared across the sea at 220mph, moving six feet forward through the air for every one foot he fell vertically – and opened his parachute 1,000ft above the ground before landing safely. The devices should allow a parachutist to glide up to 120miles (in development, current range is 24 miles or 40 kilometers), carrying 200lb of equipment.(German company ESG)

    Fitted with oxygen supply, stabilisation and navigation aides, troops wearing the wings will jump from a high-altitude transport aircraft which can stay far away from enemy territory – or on secret peacetime missions could avoid detection or suspicion by staying close to commercial airliner flight paths.

    The manufacturers claim the ESG wing is ‘100 per cent silent’ and ‘extremely difficult’ to track using radar. The integration of small turbo jet drives for UAVs in the second development stage will make it possible to carry persons over long distances without the need to jump from an extreme height.

    I think for really high speeds it would make sense to make a pod for the person to allow for more aerodynamic shapes. The only reason to retain the external human shape is for adventurists etc… For most applications it would make more sense to make a pod or shell to hold the person for high speeds (ie jet planes)

  7. An earlier powered flight by Rossy…

  8. Thats so weird, last month I had a dream about devices like that and I’ve never seen or heard about this guy until now.

  9. I think you meant 50lbs thrust each, for 200lbs total. If he had a 2:1 thrust-to-weight ratio I think he would have surpassed 190 knots easily.

  10. watch dis behind rossy m currently studying towards my ppl after that.flying like rossy is my next move…..

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