Wind tunnels in the UK are offering a virtual reality skydive!
It's now possible to do the ultimate virtual reality skydive – in a wind tunnel with a VR headset!
After a few flights in the tunnel, a novice can don a VR headset and experience the visuals of a skydive. A Cookie G3 helmet is outfitted with a Virtual Reality headset and the experience can be booked as part of a first-time flyer package. Experienced flyers are also trying and loving the experience!
The Virtual Reality Skydive/tunnel flight is being offered in Bodyflight Bedford, and the three iFLY UK tunnels, in Milton Keynes, Basingstoke, and Manchester.
We asked Bryony Doughty, Director of Business development at Bodyflight a few questions:
What’s it like? Do skydivers say it’s realistic ? Does it ‘fool' their senses?
“YES! The feedback we have had from flyers such as Denis Praet, Killa [Adam Mattcola] and the Red Devils are that it feels very realistic. As well as the VR headset you are also wearing a dummy rig in the flight chamber so that you feel like you are wearing the equipment as well.“
Are the students calmer or more agitated?
“In the package we sell the students have four 'practice' flights first so that they can get a feel for flying and get used to it. This helps with their stability when they are flying with the VR headset on. The instructor will hold onto them for the entire duration of their VR flight to ensure that they do not bump into the walls of the tunnel. So far we have not had any flyers not enjoy the experience and they are generally very excited to take part.“
You offer a skydive 'over California', where exactly?
“It is San Diego DZ. We will also very soon have an option over Hawaii! In the future we will have a wingsuit flight over Norway and a jump with the Red Devils.“
Are you seeing more or fewer first time flyers interested in skydiving as a result?
“So far we have had lots of people buy the experience as gifts for their partners and family members who have already expressed an interest in skydiving. This seems to be a popular option for a 'First step' before booking an actual tandem or course. At £85 it is also a cost effective option to see if you like it before booking an AFF course.“
We asked Nick Wake, iFLY Marketing Director about safety:
For first time flyers, does it add any danger because they can’t see the tunnel walls?
“Not danger, but based on the feedback we have had, definitely an adrenaline rush. The sensation of the wind over your body and what you see through your headset, makes you feel like you are doing an actual skydive. Speaking from personal experience, at the back of your mind, you know the instructor is there with you and you are not in any danger. We have carried out exhaustive testing around the safety element of delivering this experience and our VR customers receive a bespoke safety briefing.”
Andy Godwin, former General Manager, former iFLY Milton Keynes answered a few more questions
What is it like for the Instructors?
“As an Instructor, and having taken in most classes so far, I can say that it is easy. The equipment works every time. You can push a button on the headset that allows the customer to see through the phone, so they don’t have to sit in the dark. This helps take away a lot of the flyer's anxiety. The Instructor has a separate screen outside of the tunnel that displays what the flyer is seeing, giving him or her the ability to ensure the flyer is facing the right way and not missing any action. Yes, the Instructor needs to hold the flyer throughout the duration of the flight, regardless of previous flying experience, but they are so immersed in the experience, they hardly notice. In fact, many people actually fly better because they are more relaxed while engaged with the video, than if they were flying normally and worrying about body position. The video ends with a parachute deployment sequence, at which time the Instructor clicks the button again, so the student can see the door to exit.“
Is it like skydiving?
“It is like skydiving but it is not, but it is like skydiving. I think because it replicates the whole skydive so well, it messes with the brain, which knows it is not real, yet it feels real, which adds a whole new level when it comes to tunnel flying. It’s a like magic, the way it misdirects you so that you really feel like you are flying.”
Moving forward, there are plans to extend the idea to many more iFLY tunnels offering the technology, with all sorts of different VR locations. Bring it on!