Hard to think of anything more 21st Century—in a good way—than a guy soaring over a mountaintop in a BMW-engineered wingsuit at 186 mph. That's what you can watch in the video above. It's just two minutes and change but will definitely raise some goosebumps.
After three years of intensive research and countless test flights in BMW’s horizontal wind tunnel, [BASE jumper and pro skydiver Peter] Salzmann and the wingsuit completed the maiden flight over the picturesque mountains of Austria last week. The 33-year-old was dropped by helicopter at just shy of 10,000 feet alongside two other fliers sporting conventional wingsuits. BMW says the electric wingsuit enabled Salzmann to accelerate faster than his mates at a peak speed of 186 mph. (Normal wingsuit operators typically reach horizontal speeds around 62 mph.)
The e-wingsuit is built upon BMW i EV technology and powered by a chest-mounted rig. It offers 15 kW of grunt that’s split between two 7.5 kW carbon impellers. The impellers spin at a speed of 25,000 rpm and produce thrust for up to five minutes. The aim of the electric wingsuit is to increase performance and eventually allow for longer distances to be covered.
In the BMW release about this achievement, wingsuit pilot Peter Salzmann said the idea for the suit was born out of a moment of pure inspiration.
"At the time, I was developing suits for skydiving and basejumping with a friend and basejumping mentor," Salzmann said.
"In a relaxed atmosphere one evening after a day of testing, we threw out lots of ideas about how we could improve performance. 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."
Salzmann then approached BMW i—a BMW sub-brand first founded nine years ago to create electric vehicles—and they liked the idea. They looped in BMW's Designworks innovation studio and went to the drawing board to develop their amazing flying suit.
In the comprehensive BMW article about the suit's development, Salzmann describes the development process as touch and go, involving initial tests with dummies in wind tunnels before progressing to at least 30 test jumps prior to the making of the video.
Salzmann now has a real taste for flying over mountains like Iron Man. He tells BMW he "will have to train more," and "optimize the technique and look ahead boldly," but his new goal sounds even more thrilling and superhero-worthy: Salzmann will next take his wingsuit to fly among the skyscrapers of cities in South Korea.