German automotive giant BMW is hoping that it can revolutionize extreme sports by turbocharging wingsuits to reach blazing speeds of up to 186 miles per hour (300-km/h).
Conventional wingsuit flying began as an extreme sport in the late 90s, with humans wearing the flying squirrel-like suits – also known as birdman suits and bat suits –to glide as they fell from enormous heights to navigate narrow canyons, caves, and gorges.
Since then, wingsuit flying has proved its staying power and become a veritable genre of its own on YouTube, with dozens of videos sponsored by the likes of GoPro and Red Bull showing the exploits of daring wingsuit flyers who use gravity to reach blistering speeds.
However, engineers at BMW’s Designworks studio have now created a wingsuit that would be equipped with a set of electric impellers that pump out 20 horsepower, allowing wearers to reach speeds that were previously unthinkable, reports New Atlas.
The experimental wingsuit is the brainchild of Peter Salzmann, an Austrian stuntman who linked up with the German carmaker to push the extreme sport past the limits.
The final result is this wingsuit fitted with chest-mounted, electric-powered contraption with two 25,000 rpm, 5-inch impellers.
Salzmann is a seasoned wingsuit flyer whose top speed can reach a formidable 62 mph. However, after some time the extreme sport seems less like actual flying and more like prolonged, albeit extreme, falling.
But with this new BMW propulsion system that reaches 186 mph, your typical wingsuit flyer can feel less like a flying squirrel and more like a rising eagle who can actually regain altitude – at least for as long as the suit’s electrical charge lasts.
This speed demon’s dream device has been tested in specialized wind tunnels and has been used in 30 different test jumps. In a video showing the wingsuit’s first public demonstration, an airborne Salzmann can be seen soaring past the Del Brüder mountain peaks of the Austrian Alps.
In the video, the seasoned stuntman and two other stuntmen wearing normal, analog wingsuits can be seen jumping out of a helicopter at 10,000 feet. They soon begin to fly in formation before Salzmann breaks from them and flies over a mountain peak. Meanwhile, his mates in unpowered wingsuits are forced to fly around it.
“In a relaxed atmosphere one evening after a day of testing, we threw out lots of ideas about how we could improve performance,” Salzmann said in a press release. “One of them was a supporting motor – and it’s an idea I just couldn’t shake. I found the idea of being able to jump from my local mountain wearing the wingsuit and land in my garden fascinating.”
It still remains unclear whether BMW plans to go beyond releasing that one epic video, and plans to release these turbocharged wingsuits to consumers. So far, this wild invention seems to be a component in a promotional campaign for its new electric SUV, the iX3.
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