Institute for Dynamic Systems and Control


Project Details


Wingsuit Flying



Prof. Raffaello D'Andrea


Lead Researchers:

Geoffrey Robson
Prof. Raffaello D'Andrea


January 2010
ZurichMinds Presentation

Geo Robson speaks about wingsuit aerodynamics at ZurichMinds.


Longitudinal Stability Analysis of a Jet-Powered

AIAA Guidance, Navigation, and Control Conference

Toronto, Canada

We deeply regret to announce that Geo Robson died in a BASE jumping accident while on holiday in his home country of South Africa on 12 April 2010.


Geo was able to combine his passion for flying with that for science, mathematics, and research; he was an extremely rare combination of adventurer, pioneer, and a scholar. A funny, personable and caring colleague and friend, Geo is sorely missed by all of us who knew and worked with him.


One of Geo's favourite destinations in Switzerland was Lauterbrunnen — not just for BASE jumping, but also to spend time with friends, and to “work” (as he would say) on his research. Lauterbrunnen was essentially Geo's second office, and the place where enjoyed most of his spare time. We thought it fitting that it also be the place where we remember him, and have commissioned the town of Lauterbrunnen to engrave a bench in Geo's honour. Geo's bench will be ready in the spring of 2011. For maps and directions, click here.


Wingsuit Flight

Wingsuits have a long and interesting history, but it is only in the last decade or so that the design and construction of high performance wingsuits have matured to the point where a sufficiently experienced skydiver can learn to fly them safely and easily.


A sustained glide ratio of 2:1 is fairly routine, allowing the skydiver to travel large horizontal distances, often flying in close proximity to other wingsuits in “flocks”.  The slower descent rate of a wingsuit also approximately doubles the typical freefall time of a skydive from 1 to 2 minutes.


Unpowered wingsuits will likely always be limited to these somewhat modest glide ratios, but since 2005, Visa Parviainen from Finland has been experimenting with jet-powered wingsuits.  As far as we know, he is the only person to have flown a powered wingsuit with any significant success, and is currently able to fly for 4 minutes with negligible altitude loss.  He uses small jet engines secured to his feet (the only practical location for them), although the drawback of this configuration is that it can become unstable, making it dangerous and difficult to fly.  We have constructed a mathematical model of powered wingsuit flight, and believe it should be possible to design a fly-by-wire system with vectored thrust to stabilize the wingsuit.


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