by Anmol AhujaDec 03, 2020
In its move to establish a market for sustainable premium mobility, the BMWi is a sub-branch of BMW founded in 2011 to design and manufacture plug-in electric vehicles. The firm has already released two vehicles, the i3 all-electric car and the i8 plug-in hybrid. In an exceptional collaboration, the design incubator has given BMW’s mobility a third dimension: that of flight. At the #NEXTGen 2020, the BMW group will be presenting its first electric drive system for their wingsuit, allowing mankind’s centuries old dream of flight to be fulfilled in an unprecedented way. The design, developed jointly by BMWi and Designworks, with significant inputs from professional wingsuit pilot Peter Salzmann, was elaborately tested in its maiden flight, piloted by Salzmann himself.
Several companies have thrown their hats in the ring for securing the future of mobility: including Hyundai forming the New Horizons Studio for making UMVs, and KleinVision, an independent think tank taking to the skies with their AirCar. While BMW is already among the world’s leading suppliers of electrically powered systems in automobiles, the Electrified Wingsuit furthers its pursuit of securing the future of individual mobility. The flight system of the wingsuit incorporates the same eDrive technology from its current two vehicle line-up. Presently, the technology’s fifth generation lends the new BMW iX3 a net zero fuel consumption and CO2 emissions, and a combined power consumption of 17.8-17.5 kWh/100 km, also characterised by optimised energy efficiency, power density and a compact design. Adapted to the wingsuit, this technology creates an extremely powerful, compact and light drive and energy storage package for a unique flying experience.
The fly unit of the Electrified Wingsuit by BMWi comprises two encased carbon propellers, dubbed here as impellers, each delivering a power output of 7.5 kW, a speed of nearly 25,000 rpm, and a total output of 15 kW, available for approximately 5 minutes. The textile layer stretched between the arms and legs of the wingsuit allows the pilot to generate horizontal flight movement from the fall velocity and airflow, upon the initiating jump from a cliff or aircraft. Salzmann corroborates from his extensive personal experience as a professional skydiving instructor, base-jumper, and film stunt artist that with each metre of descent in the sky, up to three metres of horizontal flight can be achieved, allowing Wingsuit skydivers to reach speeds of more than 100 km/h. The electrified wingsuit, however, provides immediate acceleration to the pilot upon activation, allowing them to fly at speeds of more than 300 km/h. The electric drive system thus manages to increase the performance of the wingsuit in order to achieve a better constant glide flight, allowing longer distances to be covered from the skies from the same fall elevation and a much shorter time.
The claims of BMWi’s electrified wingsuit were put on testing ground earlier last week, when Salzmann and two other wingsuit pilots were flown by helicopter over mountain tops of Salzmann’s homeland, Austria. The three men carried the jump from an altitude of 3,000 metres, while only Salzmann himself was equipped with the electrified wingsuit, followed by the other two pilots using glide flight suits. With the help of the electrified wingsuit, Salzmann was able to accelerate past his colleagues and fly across the peak, eventually meeting up with the other two pilots around the mountain, and parachuting down to their agreed landing destination. The 33 year old Austrian skydiver is now firmly convinced that “electric drive technology will shape the future, not only on the road but also in the air”.