Come iFly with me: indoor skydiving tech

Step inside Australia's first indoor skydiving centre as four 450 horsepower fans lift flyers into the air.

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Experiencing the thrill of skydiving no longer requires you to throw yourself out of a plane. The iFly Downunder indoor skydiving centre opened in April 2014. It is the first facility of its kind in Australia, though there are several other iFly facilities in locations such as Chicago and Orlando.

Four 450 horsepower fans are located at the top of the building. They generate the wind that is then tunnelled down the sides, entering the flight chamber from below to gently lift flyers into the air.

Once the air passes through the flight chamber, it enters a primary diffuser. This reduces the wind's velocity before it all goes back through the components to continue the cycle.

Four Mitsubishi Electric variable speed drive inverters control the fans, which are able to generate speeds of up to 250 kilometres per hour. A programmable logic controller (PLC) regulates the inverters and monitors parameters like temperature and vibration.

To link the inverters and PLC together, a proprietary Mitsubishi Electric network called CC-Link is used. This gives instructors full control over all components such as wind speed from a central control desk.

Unlike regular skydiving, flyers simply step into the air rather than fall from a height. The wire net at the bottom of the chamber can hold the weight of two elephants, so there's no danger of falling through.

At the start of every day, the instructors go through a series of tests to ensure the system is functioning correctly. The motors inside are fitted with vibration sensors that let the operators forecast any large maintenance requirements, with the manufacturer of the vertical wind tunnel SkyVenture also receiving this monitoring information.

The technology is similar to other iFly facilities around the world.

 

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