Gravity: Richard Browning
Almost more superhero than start-up, meet the former Royal Marine reserve who wants to help make humans fly...
Tell us what your business does:
Gravity is a British tech start-up founded in March 2017 following the world’s first human propulsion flight tests and the patent filing covering a human propulsion flight system.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
The vision is to build an entirely new generation of human flight systems for commercial, aviatory and entertainment applications from the core patent application.
The Daedalus suit uses ‘human 2.0’ principles, focusing on taking and augmenting the human mind and body’s abilities, to produce something super-human.
The four arm-mounted gas turbine engines and two hip-mounted gas turbine engines provide enough lift to enable a person capable of holding their body weight for long periods of time to fly.
How did you know there was a market for it?
We didn’t! The original project came from wanting to answer the question: is it possible to augment a human being in the simplest way possible to achieve flight?
As Daedalus became reality, it was clear there we applications for this kind of technology in the future such as search and rescue, helping casualties in a military situation over minefields. Or civilian applications such as first responders – the equivalent of ambulance man on motorbike.
From an entertainment, sporting and viewing public perspective, you could have several hundred around the world easily. Could even scale up production to mass market eventually.
What were you doing before starting up?
I spent five years, between 2002 and 2007, as a Royal Marines reserve alongside a 15 year career as a City commodity trader.
In my spare time, I am dedicated to triathlons, 140km ultra-marathons, 200km endurance canoe races and calisthenics in pursuit of personal challenge. My approach to life is one pursuing ‘innovation and endeavour’.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
I already run another successful six-year-old start-up, so that side of things isn’t new territory for me.
How did you raise the money?
It started off as a self-funded project and I was introduced to an investor/entrepreneur by a mutual colleague who immediately saw the potential and became our founder investor on the SEIS scheme.
Describe your business model and how you make money:
We have five core commercial pillars:
- Brand sponsorship and advertising
- Paid for flights for private and public events either with single pilot or a display team
- Selling the system either as a whole or as an experience to end consumers
- Developing a military version of the technology
- Developing variants of both the engines and the core propulsion system for more mass market solutions like our upcoming fan powered hover suit
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
The entire Daedalus suit build was, in theory, an impossible challenge in itself – everybody I spoke to with an engineering or aeronautical background thought I was mental!
We had to consider everything, from the heat of the engines, to my weight and the weight of the engines, and how we would engineer the whole things.
There’s no rule book for building or flying this kind of thing but the first person in a small team building the helicopter had to learn as they went, and that’s what we did.
What was your first big breakthrough?
The first big breakthrough came in late 2016 when we achieved a six second, level controlled flight.
Flying in front of a collection of Silicon Valley investors as part of our seed investment round in April 2017 comes pretty high up there too. We have big news coming!
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Learn from doing, not desk studying – in order to succeed you have to learn from failure.
Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
Running an aeronautical innovation business responsible for launching a whole new category of human flight and be proud of having built Gravity into a world class technology business that’s inspired millions of people globally.