Wingsuit basejumpers are supposed to fly down, right? Wrong! Take everything you know about basejumping and throw it out the window, where it will fall to the ground because it’s not wearing a neat set of impellers.
Austrian basejumper Peter Salzmann dreamt up a way of taking his sport to new heights with a little electric help. Salzmann collaborated with BMW i and BMW’s Designworks agency to make an electric-powered impeller that would allow him to fly even longer than any wingsuit-wearing basejumper has ever gone.
An electric motor allows the impeller pack to sit close to Salzmann’s body without being too noisy or dirty. Sustainable energy is important to Salzmann as well, making the electric motor the perfect fit.
The twin 5-inch-wide carbon-fiber impellers took three years to develop after Salzmann and one of his basejumping mentors thought of an extra motor as a means to prolong a jump. Each impeller spins at roughly 25,000 rpm and has an output of 15 kilowatts. The pack is powered by a 50-volt lithium battery and the whole pack weighs roughly 26 lbs. The structure of the pack is made of aluminum and carbon fiber to keep it as light and comfortable as possible in flight.
Various pack prototypes were tested in wind tunnels—including one on Sweden capable of testing wingsuit flight—before Salzmann’s first flight as well. There, they discovered that the suit itself needed to have some additional air inlets in order to feed the impeller enough air.
To test it out, Salzmann originally planned to jump over a set of three skyscrapers in South Korea, falling down to the lower skyscrapers’ height and then soaring up and over the tallest skyscraper of the three using the impellers.
Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic got in the way of that as well, so Salzmann looked closer to home, to a set of mountains in Austria called the Three Brothers.
Salzmann’s jump started off from a helicopter 10,000 feet in the air and only got more majestic from there as he split from two other basejumpers and soared up over one of the peaks.
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