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Early in 2016, Richard Browning had a vision. He wanted to build a viable anti-gravity jet-engine suit and inspire solo human flight.
Throughout 2016 he designed, built, redesigned and rebuilt his prototype flight suit – Daedalus – testing, developing and reiterating for a year before getting to the working model you see today.
His strength, perseverance and ambition to change the world are enthralling and RS is excited to be part of Richard’s incredible journey, providing tools, components and expertise to support extraordinary engineering in action.
In the fourth part of an exclusive interview with Richard we discussed whether he ever had any doubts about whether his system could work. y he decided to build the suit.
DS - It must take serious belief and tenacity to keep revising designs and making incremental improvements. The Daedalus system has developed massively since the initial design flight test. Did you ever doubt that the system would work?
RB - I’m quite well-renowned in my work life for this, once I’ve got an idea I like trying to keep up with it. The Royal Marines Reserves was a good challenge of that. 300 or so of us joined every six months and two years later I and only two others from my intake got our green berets. Because it really was horrendous! You’ve got to go through and get to the same standard as a Royal Marine but you’re only doing it in your free time, so every Saturday and every Wednesday you have to peel yourself away from your normal, cushty, civilian life and go and expose yourself to whatever you’re facing as a marine. You know, it’s pretty brutal, it is hard work and hard to keep up with. At least if you are doing it as a regular marine, you are down in Lympstone full-time, surrounded by other people doing it and you’re immersed. But going in and out of that environment and trying to keep up is just horrendous.
DS - And you kept that up for 5 years?
Yes, well I got my green hat after a couple of years and then I was there for three more years on and off. I was supposed to go to Afghanistan but my wife was expecting our first child. It would have been cool to finish the experience off like that, but I might not have come back with all my limbs, you never know.
Testing and development – August 2016 to February 2017
Did I ever doubt it would work? Well I didn’t know where we would get to, I was pretty sure that we could develop the thrust necessary, but whether it was controllable or not? I did have, to varying degrees along the way, major concerns that I was increasing spending significant amounts of money. You buy one and think that’s a lot of money to spend on something that just makes a lot of noise and doesn’t do anything. Then you buy two and think, I’m now in this for even more! But I still can’t take off, I need twice that many! So then with four engines, I’ve spent enough to buy a decent family car and I still can’t take off, so you know, there’s an element of ‘I can’t afford not to give this a proper go now!’
On the flip side of amazing revolutionary innovation is looking like an absolute idiot, with people saying, ‘well, why did you ever think that that was going to work’? You have to battle your own doubt and that’s tricky.
Luckily for me, the quantum of money involved was okay. I still would be my own biggest critic for wasting my money on this stuff if it hadn’t worked out. Essentially, at best, that can erode your confidence to do another project and that is absolutely tragic because innovation is all about trying this stuff seven or eight times before you have one that even half works. Imagine going through this seven or eight times before you get to that success, I mean, it’s just illogical!
But, genuinely, the flying, I find that impossibly amazing. It’s just brilliant. It’s the only thing in my life that I’ve ever come across where I can do everything possible to try to make it a damp squib and over ham it and you’d still be blown away. Just running one of these engines is impressive, but nothing like flying. That seems to mess with people’s heads in a really weird way.