The idea of a jetpack armed with a pistol that the operator aims remotely just by moving their head and looking at the target sounds like something ripped out of a Hollywood blockbuster or a first-person shooter video game. However, Richard Browning, founder of United Kingdom-based jetpack startup Gravity Industries, has now demonstrated this as a real capability to go along with his company's signature Daedalus Flight Pack.
Browning released the video of the pistol-armed Daedalus in action, and with him at the controls, on TikTok yesterday. The full clip, which is brief, can be seen in the social media post below.
The pistol is attached to Daedalus via a tubular frame and is held in a mount that can at least articulate up and down, and, possibly to a very limited degree, side to side. The pistol is fired remotely by the operator and its movements are tied to a head-tracking system of some kind.
What gun the Daedalus is seen here armed with specifically is unclear, but it is a fully automatic Glock of some type. Glock famously has a factory-produced fully-automatic version of its signature G17 9x19mm pistol, known as the G18. Other conversion options have existed to turn other Glock models into fully automatic or quasi-fully automatic weapons, but these are heavily regulated in the United States and elsewhere.
This is not the first version of this setup that Gravity Industries' Browning has shown publicly. Last year, the company's founder Browning presented a different configuration, seen in the video below, with the pistol mounted sideways inside a swiveling ring. In that version, aiming was achieved via a visible laser mounted onto the gun. It's unclear if the aiming method has changed in any way in the current version.
Earlier this year, in cooperation with the U.S. Navy's Joint Prototyping and Experimentation Maritime (JPEM) program, Gravity Industries demonstrated a version of the pistol-armed Daedalus that is much closer to the configuration seen in the video released yesterday. JPEM is a mechanism the Navy uses to rapidly explore new and emerging technologies, and makes use of the unique M80 Stiletto stealth ship as the primary test platform.
The JPEM demonstration involving Daedalus centered around using the jetpack to assist in a simulated boarding operation with the M80 acting as the target vessel. It does not appear to have involved any live firing of a weapon and available video footage from the event, seen below, only shows a mock gun installed on the jetpack.
The practicality of this armed configuration of Daedalus is debatable. The G18 and other full-auto Glocks have notoriously high rates of fire and limited accuracy at any substantial range. Extended magazines can help mitigate the first issue to some degree. The pistol attached to the Daedalus in the new video looks to have a magazine with a small extension that would not provide significantly more ammunition.
Though inaccurate, the high volume of fire might potentially have its uses. The person at the controls of the jetpack could put down suppressing fire as they come into land before switching over to a more practical weapon. In the video Gravity Industries released last year, Browning also carries an assault rifle, or mock weapon meant to look like one (such as an airsoft gun), and transitions back and forth between a ready stance with that weapon and operating the jetpack. The Daedalus' design prevents an individual from using their hands for anything else but maneuvering while in flight.
At the same time, having a weapon that can be used in flight doesn't obviate other serious potential pitfalls of using a jetpack in support of real military operations. As with many other jetpack designs over the years, Daedalus leaves its operator completely exposed to fire from the ground and has significant performance limitations in its current form. A catastrophic failure of the system for any reason would send the operator plummeting to the ground, though Gravity Industries has said in the past that it is working to integrate a parachute into the design.
There is also the question of what an operator is to do with their Daedalus once they arrive at a destination. Carrying the jetpack would be a burden and could be dangerous in a combat scenario if it still contains any fuel. The system could be left behind, but this would raise additional questions about recovering it later on. The price of one of these jetpacks starts at around 338,000 British pounds, or nearly $475,000 at the rate of conversion at the time of writing.
Daedalus is powered by five mini jet turbines that run on either Jet A1 or diesel fuel, and that have a combined 1,050 horsepower and produce around 318 pounds of thrust. It can reach speeds up to 85 miles per hour and get up to an altitude of 12,000 feet, but has a maximum endurance of around five to 10 minutes, according to available data. Exactly how fast an operator could go and how long they could remain aloft would of course be dependent on a host of environmental and other factors. Gravity Industries jetpack does have significantly greater endurance than historical designs from the 1960s and 1970s, which had flight times better measured in seconds than minutes, but is comparable to other current designs.
A jetpack, including one in an armed configuration, could be potentially useful in certain operational contexts where a relatively short burst of speed or the ability to reach high places quickly might be valuable. Jetpacks could also possibly be employed in various non-combat scenarios, by military and other security forces, or first responders, including to help reach individuals in need of medical attention or just quickly shuttle individuals across short distances, such as from one ship to another.
Militaries around the world certainly continue to have interest in the potential capabilities that jetpacks might offer. In addition to demonstrations for the U.S. military, Gravity Industries has shown off Daedalus to the armed forces of the United Kingdom and others.
Whatever the future holds for Gravity Industries and its Daedalus jetpack, the company is still very much interested in pursuing potential military applications, as has now been evidenced by the demonstration of a pistol-armed configuration.
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