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Seen on video, British Royal Navy lets new human piloted jetpack land on warship

HMS 'Dasher' at Bangor Seen arriving at Bangor harbour, HMS 'Dasher' (P280) is an Archer Class (or P2000) patrol and training vessel of the Royal Navy. Dasher is attached to the Royal Navy Cyprus Squadron (RNCS). (Rossographer/Geograph)
August 27, 2019

The British Royal Navy took one step closer to creating an Iran Man-like suit by testing its jetpack for aquatic missions last month.

Richard Browning, a former British Royal Marine reservist who became an inventor, conducted a short test of his jet-powered Daedalus Mark 1 exoskeleton from the Royal Navy’s HMS Dasher (P280), Task and Purpose reported Aug. 12.

In the video, Browning launches from the patrol using his six-turbine rig and training vessel to a smaller rubber motorboat just before he flew circles around them.

“Being in command of Dasher while the Gravity Industries team were onboard was very different and a new challenge which I was honored to take on,” Lt. Lauren Webber said in a statement. “Taking off and landing on the P2000 [Archer-class vessel] look so easy, despite the ship traveling at 20 knots.”

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Browning’s first test came earlier this year in May. Members of the 539 Assault Squadron, 1 Assault Group Royal Marines (1AGRM), the training unit tasked with small boat amphibious and riverine operations, conducted similar a test.

“This has been about exploring how we can take surface [maneuver] forward and all the different technologies that are out there,” as 1AGRM’s commanding officer Col. Chris Haw told Maritime Executive at the time.

While the idea of flying soldiers captures the public’s imagination, often pointing to how far technology has come and where it will take militaries in the future, others are more skeptical of the prospect for one simple reason, as Task and Purpose notes: they’re easy targets.

“In every depiction of the system, flying soldiers are terribly exposed to enemy fire,” Kyle Mizokami wrote in Popular Mechanics in 2018. “In a real war, soldiers with [jet-packs] would be the first ones to get shot at, negating any advantage of the platform.”

Indeed, this problem is only furthered by the fact that, with Browning’s system, soldiers’ hands are required to help with air travel, thereby eliminating any possibility of weapons use or any tools that require the use of hands.

The tactical limits of flying soldiers hasn’t stopped others from developing the technology, however.

Earlier this summer, a French inventor flew his hoverboard while wielding a rifle during the country’s Bastille Day military parade to showcase the military potential of his flying board.

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French inventor Franky Zapata flew his hoverboard, also referred to as a flyboard, on July 15 to the applause of French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron and other leaders.

The French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly said the hoverboard “can allow tests for different kinds of uses, for example as a flying logistical platform or, indeed, as an assault platform,” indicating that the French military might be considering using them in the future, the AFP reported.

Zapata was able to cross the English Channel with his hoverboard on his second try.