The eight pilots raced around a one-kilometer (0.6-mile) course, maneuvering between 12 giant inflatable obstacles placed in the water. Four heats created a leaderboard that culminated in a final round, with each race only lasting around 90 seconds.

“We had people getting disqualified, we had people losing it, we had somebody go in the water — we had just utter chaos, in a great way,” says Browning.

He hopes that the event will inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers to dream big: “Most technology is ludicrous and impossible until it isn’t.”

 

The power of a Bugatti’ in a backpack

Gravity’s technology combines five engines — a large one on the back, with a pair of “micro jet engines” on each arm — in a 3D-printed polymer, aluminum, and titanium suit that can lift a person into the air. Browning compares the 1,700-horsepower jet suit to “the power of a Bugatti Veyron” sports car in a 30-kilogram (66-pound) backpack.

Pilots control their flight path by altering the direction of their arms — for example, pointing their arms down to go up, or lifting their arms to the side to go down. The jet suit uses aviation fuel or diesel, and can go at speeds of up to 136 kilometers per hour (85 miles per hour), Browning’s own record.

As with any adrenaline sport, there’s always risk. Gravity likens jet suit crashes to “falling off a motorcycle,” and flies low to the ground over