Perhaps one of man’s greatest desires has always been to fly. Nowadays, it is no longer unattainable, but to fly in the air in a one-man flying machine can still seem futuristic. However, it seems that it is not only in video games that this technology will be available, as several innovations have been made recently. An eVTOL called Hexa – an electronic vertical take-off and landing device – is being tested to see how it could be used for military purposes.
Several ideas for single-person flight have emerged, such as the eVTOL (electric vertical takeoff and landing), an electronic vertical takeoff and landing device that combines a helicopter and a drone. The eVTOL, called Hexa, is developed by LIFT Aircraft of Texas, where Hungarian experts are working. In April, the company announced a partnership with the US military. The Air Force would put the vehicle into use by special forces, as the rotor drone is quiet, fast and semi-automated. It can therefore perform well in situations that a conventional aircraft cannot. The development of the device is part of the Air Force’s Agility Prime programme, announced in 2018.
Even more extraordinary is the idea of army soldiers flying with a jetpack on their backs. The Jet Suit, developed by British company Gravity Industries, includes a hand-mounted engine in addition to the rocket backpack. So it takes some practice to get airborne with one. However, it has been shown repeatedly that it can also be used for rescue missions or even to shoot down a ship.
DARPA, the research arm of the US Department of Defense, is reportedly investigating the potential use of single-crew airframes, particularly for special forces. Under the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer Opportunity (SBO), it has called for research concepts that explore the practical applications of single-crew, man-portable flight systems.
In addition to jetpacks, the possibilities include powered paragliders or winged flight suits. An important design consideration is that it can be used for a variety of military missions. Among other things, it can be used to transport the wearer to the target location, for urban combat, and to attack and escape from waterborne assets. Other considerations are that it should be silent, resistant to various environmental influences (such as strong winds), leave minimal infrared footprints, and be easy and quick to assemble. It is also essential that no lengthy training is required to use it. This would be achieved through computer-aided systems and intuitive control options.
DARPA hopes to develop a device that could be used not only by the military, but also by the police or emergency services. The possibility of commercial use could also be considered in the future.