Electric propulsion is getting into all facets of aviation and now an Austrian skydiver has flown an electrically boosted wingsuit. Peter Salzmann teamed up with BMW to create a chest-mounted thruster unit with two ducted fans that allowed him to climb briskly on a flight over the Alps. The boost from the combined 15 kW of power can push the whole package to 186 MPH, according to Salzmann. The power is available for five minutes and comes from a 50-volt lithium battery.

He prototyped the concept with cardboard and impellers and batteries and then took it to BMW for some help. The engineers there fundamentally changed the design. “Initially we were going to put the propulsion unit on the back,” Salzmann said. “But after the initial drawings and discussions with aerodynamics experts, we decided to move the fly unit to the front.” Salzmann did 30 jumps with the wingsuit before attaching the power unit and jumping from a helicopter at 10,000 feet.


  1. Electric has an uphill battle. It is very hard to beat a heat engine, where 15/16 of the energy-producing reactants’ weight comes from the atmosphere and the exhaust returns there. (assuming 15:1 air/fuel mix)