We’ve been hearing about jet suits for a few years now, but their practical uses haven’t been too obvious—we’re still a long way off any weaponized versions being used by the military, thankfully. In the UK, though, the devices are being trialed in a new role: helping paramedics reach injured hikers in remote areas.
The suit is the work of Gravity Industries, a UK-based firm founded by Richard Browning. They do have a strong Iron Man vibe, with propulsion provided by two micro jet engines on each arm and one on the back.
A paramedic service that would see the suits used to reach people in emergency situations is being trialed in the mountainous Lake District region of the UK. In the example shown in the video above, Browning is able to reach someone in 90 seconds instead of the 25 minutes it would take on foot.
Andy Mawson, director of operations at the Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS), told Sky News there were two types of patients that could benefit from the service.
“The first is those who need the helicopter, but those we can get to a little bit quicker.”
“Also patients that don’t require critical care that might have a more simple injury like a broken ankle or a broken arm that may still wait an hour for a mountain rescue team, and we can be by their side in a matter of minutes, giving them some strong pain relief, making them comfortable in lieu of the mountain rescue teams arriving.”
“If someone had a cardiac arrest at the top of Helvellyn [a 3,000-foot mountain in the area], and we were able to employ the jet suit I am confident we would have a defibrillator on the patient within eight minutes. As things stand now our aircraft would be first on the scene and that could take 20 to 25 minutes.”
The 1,050bhp suit isn’t cheap, retailing at £340,000 (around $435,900). It can move a pilot at over 80mph, and is capable of reaching12,000 ft, though it’s flown lower for safety reasons.
“All the maneuverability comes down to your own human balance and coordination. If you point the jets increasingly down you go up and if you flare them out you go down again,” said Browning. “It is very safe, you only go to a height where if you fell you would be able to recover, it would not be a terrible injury.”
The suit isn’t ready to be adopted by the GNAAS just yet as Gravity Industries is still making alterations and collecting data from the trial, but flying emergency responders could soon become a reality.