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A student straps on the "Power Boots" invented by Viktor Gordeyev. The boots allow humans to run at speeds of up to 22 mph.  (Source: The New York Times)

A student runs with the "Power Boots" down a hall.  (Source: The New York Times)

Go Fast, a sports and beverage marketing company, is developing a jet pack that can last for 9 minutes, with a top speed of 85 mph.  (Source: Go Fast)

Former Swiss fighter pilot Yves rossy has invented a full jet wing, with four engines, which measures 2.5m and allows 4+ minute flights.  (Source: Daily Telegraph)

The Birdman Rocket Team, based out of Finland, has developed jet boots capable of short flights. Each boot has 16 kg of thrust.  (Source: Birdman Rocket Team)
"It's just my job five days a week, A rocket man, a rocket man"; New technology brings superstrength, can more new technology bring exoskeleton based flight to complete the "Iron Man"?

The summer's hottest blockbuster is the superhero flick "Iron Man" which stars Robert Downey Jr. as weapons designer turned superhero Tony Stark.  In part one of this two part series, we looked at the advances made in building exoskeletons, particularly Sarcos Inc.'s new Sarcos suit which can lift over 500 lbs, is maneuverable enough to handle stairs, and can run 30 minutes untethered.

Having a super-powered suit is great, but aside from his power, the comic book character "Iron Man" had two other key attributes -- speed and flight.  Without it, Iron Man would go from a superhero, to just plain super slow.

Fortunately there are some promising technologies to give the exoskeleton fighting suit of the future super speed and flight.  This article, the second part of this two part series, seeks to examine a couple of them.

First in the category of super speed comes the "rocket boots" from Russia, which after decades is nearing perfection.  Videos of the boots can be viewed here (in Russian language) [1][2][3]

The boots also go by the names "Power Boots", "Seven League Boots", "Quickwalker Boots", or commonly "Saigak Boots".  Saigak is Russian for a fast kind of elk.

The boots allow the user to run at up to 22 mph, with little fatigue, yet are delicate enough to climb stairs quickly.  They also get 70 MPG.  The boots are powered by tiny diesel/gas burning pistons.  They can carry 1/3 of a cup of fuel and propel the user 3 miles.  Using the boots, you can also jump much higher than the standard man.

Viktor Gordyev, a Russian who attended the University at Ufa in the Southern Urals, originally got the idea for the boots when sweating out laps in his college's physical education requirement in 1974.  It is unclear exactly when they were invented and perfected, except that  Gordyev's work was classified by the Soviet government.  In 1994 the project was finally declassified, and Gordyev was able to market his work.

Unfortunately, his company went under in 2006, after a lack of interest from investors. A demonstration at Disney World in 1998 went nowhere due to safety concerns.  Says a woeful Gardyev, "They don’t have characteristics that would allow an ordinary person to use them.... [using the shoes involves] taking certain risks.  They should work like a Kalashnikov.  Reliable in anybody’s hands."

Still, hopefully the U.S. military and/or investors might find some promise in the shoes.  The future remains wide open.

Next up is the rocket pack.  The rocket belt was originally invented in the 1960s by researcher William Suitor at Bell Aerosystems.  The pack had a 21 second fuel limit, as well as weight restrictions, rendering it mostly useless.  The first test flight was made by pioneer aviator Herald Graham in 1961.

After decades of little progress, a new company, Go Fast Sports and Beverage Company, is designing and marketing improved jetpacks.  Their latest model will retail at $200,000, will have a flight time of 9 minutes, a maximum speed of 85 MPH, a service ceiling of 250 ft, and a pilot weight limit of 180 lbs.  It is estimated that it will allow you to fly 11 miles on its 5-gallon tank and is powered by a T-73 turbine engine.  As pilot Troy Widgery says, who tested the pack at a recent arena show, "Not bad."

While the pack obviously would not be sufficient for flight and additional weight tolerance would be needed to handle the 100+ lbs from the exoskeleton and other apparatus (boots), it would at least get you in the air and allow you to briefly hover.

Need to really fly like a jet, like Iron Man?  That's where the third and fourth inventions this article details comes in.  French inventor Yves Rossy, a former Swiss jet fighter pilot, and current commercial pilot has invented a human-mounted mini jet, earning him the title "Fusion Man".

The jet features carbon fiber wings spanning 2.5 m, with four mini jet engines using kerosene fuel.  The engines have reached speeds of 190 MPH over the Swiss Alps, after a 8,000 ft jump out a plane. 

The wings helped him fly for over 4 minutes, landing by parachute.  Rossy describes it in French stating, roughly, "It's like there's a big handle in your back, and the good Lord takes you by it and shoves you through the air, it's fantastic!!"

At a recent demonstration flight for he elated, "It's one thing to do it on one's own, but to be able to share it live today that's extraordinary."

Rossy plans to use the wings to cross the English Channel next year.

Finnish inventors first developed the wing suit, allow men to glide along through the air.  The company that produces the suits Birdman Inc. has launched a new project, the Birdman Rocket Team.  Their lead pilot Visa Parviainen in 2005 and since has donned rocket boots for test flights.  The two jet engines attach burn a butane/propane mix, at a rate of half a liter per minute.  They provide 16kgs of thrust. 

The engines allow level flights as well as climbing.  Stalls are no problem to recover from for the skilled pilot, such as Parviainen, thanks to the agility of the human body.  Flights could last half a minute or more at high speeds.

While the Russian Rocket boots, the Go Fast Jetpack, the Jet Man wings, and the Finnish Bird suit/rocket boots represent disparate inventions that would add extra weight and complexity, if combined, together perhaps their successors could combine to provide an exoskeleton with flight capabilities, much like Iron Man in the movies.  It certainly wouldn't be cheap, and obviously the extra weight from the exoskeleton would be extremely difficult to compensate for but the rate of recent advances its look more and more doable.  Here's hoping.

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"Arc Reactor" technology...
By Warren21 on 5/18/2008 2:32:56 PM , Rating: 5
As stated even in the movie itself, the suit fails without a good enough power source.

I know that whole "arc reactor" thing is made up, but to be realistic with this technology we need a breakthrough like it; ridiculous amounts of power in a small package.

RE: "Arc Reactor" technology...
By KaiserCSS on 5/18/2008 3:52:05 PM , Rating: 2
Agreed. As stated, until a breakthrough in either lightweight power generation or power storage is produced, a worthy powered exoskeleton will remain elusive. Perhaps a new generation Farnsworth–Hirsch Fusor? It'll probably end up being powered by something we can't even conceive right now, much like how people in the 50's couldn't possibly conceive of devices like the iPod or cell phones.

RE: "Arc Reactor" technology...
By Tsuwamono on 5/18/2008 6:10:20 PM , Rating: 3
then how did gene Roddenberry come up with star trek?

RE: "Arc Reactor" technology...
By KaiserCSS on 5/18/2008 7:22:14 PM , Rating: 4
I don't see any warp drives, phasers, teleporters, shields, or multiple humanoid alien species speaking English. And I have yet to encounter an engineering room on a starship operated by colorful knobs and light-up buttons, sans graphical displays.

I suppose I was misinterpreted. The "technology" is conceivable, but the "design and implementation" of such technology is constantly shifting due to rapid advancements in current technology that allow the production of exponentially more complex machines.

Can you conceive the implementation of a technology that hasn't even been imagined yet? Like the positronic brain of Asimov fame, there are ways to fictionally implement technological devices using what is known at the time. Who knows what sort of scientific breakthroughs will radically alter the way we imagine such devices to be implemented?

RE: "Arc Reactor" technology...
By Ringold on 5/18/2008 8:47:37 PM , Rating: 5
I don't see any warp drives

The theory is sound, if we had vast amounts of power..


Perhaps not, but we constantly have more powerful lasers, and the Enterprise under the command of Pike used lasers.


Quantum entanglement. Yeah yeah, the physics folk say you can't transfer information via such a link, but I say they're not trying hard enough. :P


True, but extremely limited 'cloaking devices' have been created and reported about here at DT, which IMHO was more impressive than 'shields' which were just convenient plot devices to keep the ship from getting the paint scratched too often.

multiple humanoid alien species speaking English

If I were an alien, I wouldn't want to talk to us either.

And I have yet to encounter an engineering room on a starship operated by colorful knobs and light-up buttons, sans graphical displays.

Guess what I saw the last time I was in the cockpit of a Cessna 172, and the last time I saw a picture of the cockpit of a space shuttle?

I saw colorful knobs, light up buttons, and many graphical displays. It looked like a cross between the technology of The Next Generation and The Original Series.

Also, I think it was gizmodo, perhaps not, but some tech blog ran a story about new medical scanners that resemble the form and function of tricorders, as used by McCoy and later series.

As for the crux of your argument, so long as we can imagine things we deem impossible I think we'll be able to imagine whats coming down the pike 30-50 years down range, despite not knowing the exact shape it'll take.

RE: "Arc Reactor" technology...
By GrandMareg on 5/18/2008 4:15:42 PM , Rating: 2
I think a small fission reactor could do it, but people are too cowardly to try it.

RE: "Arc Reactor" technology...
By Some1ne on 5/18/2008 5:24:25 PM , Rating: 2
They're not too cowardly, they'd just prefer to wait until someone invents Micro Fusion Cells. They can power everything from mechanized armor to plasma rifles to stylish cars and more.

RE: "Arc Reactor" technology...
By KaiserCSS on 5/18/2008 5:38:05 PM , Rating: 2
Micro Fusion Cells

You refer to it as if it's an actual technology. The Union Aerospace Corporation doesn't actually exist, I'm afraid.

What about wireless energy transfer? And I'm not talking about the Tesla effect, I'm talking about evanescent wave coupling, or near field resonant induction, whichever floats your boat. It is very real and quite viable.

RE: "Arc Reactor" technology...
By Shining Arcanine on 5/18/2008 6:15:06 PM , Rating: 2
If they invented them, people would be waiting for the much safer and more environmentally friendly matter/antimatter reaction cells.

There is no point in waiting for new things when current things work.

RE: "Arc Reactor" technology...
By KaiserCSS on 5/18/2008 7:24:20 PM , Rating: 3
There is no point in waiting for new things when current things work.

For the time being. If the world worked like this, progress would be unheard of. <insert computer-related advancement anecdote here>

RE: "Arc Reactor" technology...
By spluurfg on 5/19/2008 6:29:35 AM , Rating: 2
I think a small fission reactor could do it, but people are too cowardly to try it.

I have doubts about whether it's feasible to sustain a fission reaction in a device that small and whether it's really cowardice or sanity that keeps us from trying to strap such a device to a man...

At any rate, small-scale fission reactors are being explored for their use on satellites, as they offer much higher power outputs than RTG's.

RE: "Arc Reactor" technology...
By Adonlude on 5/19/2008 7:56:37 PM , Rating: 2
I'm sure its feasable, but think of the implications! Everyone would have their own nuclear weapon. Didn't you see what happened when the terminators personal fission power source was ruptured? It nearly took everyone out.

RE: "Arc Reactor" technology...
By djc208 on 5/19/2008 7:36:49 AM , Rating: 2
We can't get people to recycle batteries now, what's going to happen with people throwing used fission reactors away?

Or when some guy decides to try and "fix" his, or do a Tim Taylor modification for more power?

I'm all for nuclear power, I even work in the industry, but there's a limit to how "commonplace" nuclear power should be.

RE: "Arc Reactor" technology...
By FITCamaro on 5/19/2008 10:54:48 AM , Rating: 2
Yes. Nuclear technology has no place in everyday use by the common man. It's uses belong to power generation and medical technology. Not the power source for your means of transportation.

Perhaps in a world where no one hates each other and everyone is educated. But we don't live there.

RE: "Arc Reactor" technology...
By TimberJon on 5/19/2008 11:12:41 AM , Rating: 2
A mini-Fusion-Can, could probably be scaled down, but the immense intracacy of the thing would be so costly it would not be cost-effective. Not to mention.. the waste heat.. hellooo. Even a fusion reactor the size of a can would have to have a little liquid nitro support module to keep the sucker cool. Iron man had some kind of radiator on the back of his MK1, but not on his arc reactor... But his large Arc Reactor had levels of piping and cooling support beneath the thing and within the facility. It's all props and not always thought through all the way..

But I would think that even the small Arc reactor would produce some amount of heat, especially at peak output.

Here's a nice line of thought to follow... When Stark went up to the tip of the atmosphere when Obi was following him up getting iced, the computer (forgot the name) told him that "we are now running on emergency power". THAT is more sci fi than the arc reactor! From WHAT did enough backup power -to move the suits servos, light-jets, targeting computer and AI- come from?

THATS the kind of backup-battery technology we need to run the kind of suits we currently have (which consume significantly less power than a suit with light-jets for thrust..) for probably several hours instead of one hour tops.

Cmon guys.. we need that ITER up and stable... And I'm looking at you Sandia Lab.. The Z-Machine may promise such things like the Arc Reactor, or other spinoff technologies for power amplification/retention.

"Game reviewers fought each other to write the most glowing coverage possible for the powerhouse Sony, MS systems. Reviewers flipped coins to see who would review the Nintendo Wii. The losers got stuck with the job." -- Andy Marken
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