A number of years in the past, I noticed a man in a jet suit take off in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. The roar was deafening, the odor of gas overwhelming. Over the span of some minutes, he hovered above the bottom and moved a few bit. The jet suit’s inventor, Richard Browning had left a profession within the power trade and a stint within the Royal Marines, to go after a childhood dream.

Amazingly, he’d succeeded.

However the jet suit appeared a bespoke, one-off sort of factor. It didn’t seem poised to revolutionize workplace commutes (bear in mind these?) and even to divert oneself on the weekends. Not but. Since then, nonetheless, Browning’s dialed in his invention, and along with a barnstorming tour, his firm, Gravity Industries, has begun exploring methods his jet suit might assist people.

Which explains why, not too way back, you’d have discovered Browning gliding up a mountainside to the help of an “injured” hiker in England’s Lake District. It was a trial, in partnership with the Nice North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS), to see if a private jet suit could be a brand new software for emergency responders in wilderness areas.

The thought isn’t to interchange emergency personnel on foot or helicopters to airlift severe instances. Quite, the principle motivation is getting a primary responder on web site as quick as doable. Whereas it could have taken emergency responders 25 minutes to get to the hikers on foot, Browning and his jet suit had been on location in a mere 90 seconds. A transparent benefit.

The Lake District has dozens of sufferers in want of help each month, in response to GNAAS director of operations and paramedic Andy Mawson. The primary paramedic to succeed in a affected person can assess the scenario, talk what’s wanted to the crew, and stabilize the affected person.

“We expect this expertise might allow our crew to succeed in some sufferers a lot faster than ever earlier than. In lots of instances, this might ease the affected person’s struggling. In some instances, it could save lives,” Mawson mentioned in a press launch.

The take a look at actually demonstrated the jet suit’s pace. That mentioned, it might not be helpful in each scenario. For instance, the suit is proscribed to areas inside 5 to 10 minutes flight time (a method). That is one purpose the GNAAS selected the Lake District, which has a excessive quantity of calls in a reasonably compact geographic footprint. Additionally, Browning says he usually operates the jet suit close to the bottom for security causes. Additional steep or cliffy terrain would possibly show an obstacle (although you possibly can nonetheless fly to the bottom of any such options).

And what about coaching, you might ask?

Browning makes it look straightforward, however he invented the factor and has logged many hours flying it. In response to a Crimson Bull interview from final 12 months, it was no stroll within the park to fly early on, requiring nice stability and energy.

However Browning has since refined the suit, together with the addition of a rear jet for stability, goggles with a head-up display, and computer-automated thrust to compensate for the suit shedding weight because it burns by means of gas. Nowadays, in response to Browning, it’s a way more intuitive expertise.

“It’s a bit like using a bicycle or snowboarding or a kind of issues the place it’s nearly you fascinated with the place you need to go and your physique intuitively going there,” Browning advised Digital Tendencies in a current profile. “You’re not steering some joystick or a steering wheel. We’ve had people study to do that in 4 or 5 goes—with every go simply lasting round 90 seconds. All credit score to the human unconscious—it’s simply this floating, dreamlike state.”

The largest near-term barrier may very well be value. In response to the Crimson Bull article, no less than one suit has offered for over $400,000. Relying on the shopper and use case, then, that price ticket could be a bit steep. However it needn’t keep that prime perpetually. With sufficient demand, one might think about a standardized manufacturing course of bringing the price down.

Nonetheless, the take a look at actually impressed all contributors, and GNAAS and Gravity Industries plan to proceed exploring subsequent steps. “We might see the necessity. What we didn’t know for certain is how this might work in observe,” Mawson mentioned. “Properly, we’ve seen it now, and it’s, fairly truthfully, superior.”

Yep. It’s a man in a jet suit in any case, which is fairly freaking cool. And if their work brings a few new cadre of jet-suit-equipped wilderness paramedics—all of the cooler.

Picture credit score: Gravity Industries