The Icarus Wingsuit Project

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Group Design Project
A research project aiming to develop and fly the world’s first scientifically designed high altitude wingsuit, attempting to break world records for distance flown and time in flight
Group Members
Hassan Akhtar, Chris Boyles, Tom Cannon, Jennifer Crunden, Hayley Jones, Rob Markwell, Giorgio Muscat, Jiri Pluhar, Jenna Tiwana

Supervisors
Dr. Angelo Grubišić, Dr. Kamal Djidjeli

Supporters
S-Fly, OR3D, Mantis Vision, Boardyard, Flysight

Wingsuit flying is an extreme sport, undertaken by the brave few who risk life and limb in their pursuit of human flight. Through history, hundreds of men and woman have lost their lives whilst pushing the boundaries of skydiving towards the development of this unique sport. In modern times, world records have been set and broken for horizontal distance travelled, time spent in flight, top velocity reached and highest altitude jumped.

With very little known about the science behind the sport, recent years have seen a growth in the investigation of wingsuit flight. The Icarus Project conducted research to develop a thorough understanding of wingsuit aerodynamics, with an aim to create a world record breaking, high altitude wingsuit. By designing the world’s first computationally developed wingsuit, better understanding of both performance and flight safety would be attained.

The development of the wingsuit, Icarus1, consisted of three distinct phases; design, manufacture and testing. The design phase was centred heavily on computational analysis through the use of computational fluid dynamics (CFD). The scope of the design included both the development of the suit itself alongside production of novel aerodynamic accessories to be integrated with the suit. CFD allowed accurate estimation of flight performance for different designs through modelling the flow behaviour around the suit. The analysis of each design allowed the different design parameters to be optimised to enhance the overall performance of the suit.

Due to the nature of the product, the facilities required for manufacture were only available externally. As such, the production of the final suit was outsourced to S-Fly, an experienced wingsuit manufacturer. The designed accessories were produced through various manufacturing methods, including 3D printing, laser cutting and fibreglass moulding.

Tests were carried out on a human test subject in the R. J. Mitchell wind tunnel to characterise the enhancement in performance produced by the implementation of the accessories on the suit. The tests were also used to confirm the validity of the computational analysis carried out throughout the project. The practical implementation of the helmet was further tested through a test jump from 15,000ft to ensure the helmet performed safely.

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