Peter Salzmann, a BASE jumper and professional air sportsman just broke a Guinness World Record by completing the first wingsuit flight, powered completely with electricity.
Born in Austria, Salzmann has found his passion in BASE jumping - jumping from fixed objects like buildings, bridges, and cliffs. While some BASE jumpers prefer to use a wingsuit to enable them to travel further from their jump points, some experiment with power thrusters to achieve higher horizontal speeds and/or to not lose altitude and stay afloat for longer.
Salzmann leaned on his expertise in the area to make regular skydiving and base jumping more exciting and had been toying with the idea of a motor on his wingsuit for a while. According to a Globetrender report, Salzmann got in touch with BMWi, a BMW subsidiary with a focus on electric propulsion, in 2017.
Working with the BMWi, Salzmann built a chest-mounted rig, powered by electric motors. At first glance, the contraption looks like a mini-submersible that can dive into a water body looking for a prized possession, but the carbon body impellers on the device can rotate at an impressive rate of 25,000 rpm.
With a 7.5kW engine, each impeller compresses the air and pushes it out at a higher pressure providing a thrust that Salzmann could use to gain some extra speed as well as an altitude boost. It is powered by a 50V lithium-ion battery that can be activated with a thumb-operated throttle on the left sleeve of his suit.
When Salzmann jumped from a helicopter hovering just under 10,000 feet (3,000 m), the wingsuit provided him the thrust to reach a top speed of 186 mph (299 kph). Considering that conventional motors can only reach a third of these speeds, this is quite an achievement.
However, the 15 minutes of thrust provided by the electric motors not only allowed Salzmann to soar above a mountain peak but also claim the Guinness World Record of completing the first-ever electric-powered wingsuit flight.