In addition to military applications, Gravity Industries believes jet suits hold potential for search and rescue missions in harsh terrain. Having already carried out flights of its Jet Suit in separate rescue and military demonstrations, the UK company has combined the two as part of a NATO Mountain Warfare Rescue Exercise.
Powered by five gas turbine engines generating 1,050 bhp and 318 lb (144 kg) of thrust, the Jet Suit has a range of about 3 miles (5 km) and a flight time measured in minutes – up to four, but typically one to three depending on conditions.
Those are severe limitations, but the advantages of the suit are its speed of over 50 mph (80 km/h) and its ability to lift a pilot vertically to altitudes of up to 12,000 ft (3,658 m) and land on a small footprint – capabilities that should be useful when it comes to quickly getting aid to an injured person in mountainous terrain.
And that’s just what the flight conducted late last year in Slovenia as part of the NATO Mountain Warfare Rescue Exercise was designed to demonstrate. Gravity Industries Founder and Chief Test Pilot Richard Browning donned the Jet Suit and delivered blood plasma to an "injured" soldier who had been rescued from a gorge in the Slovenian mountains as part of the exercise.
Although Browning piloted the suit along a track to minimize risk for the exercise, the suit is obviously equipped for crossing over any terrain, which is something that may be of benefit to those responding to emergencies in difficult-to-access locations. Of course, that would mean training up paramedics to fly one of these things or, conversely, giving a pilot medical training.
Which leads us to the question – in the case of the NATO exercise, wouldn’t it have been simpler and safer to just have a drone deliver the plasma? The answer must surely be, yes. So is the Jet Suit a technology in search of a practical application? The fact is people have always yearned to take to the skies, and since a jet suit is the most visceral and independent example of powered human flight, maybe it doesn't need a practical application. On that note, the company is teasing the prospect of an upcoming Jet Suit race series.
In the meantime, check out Browning and his Jet Suit doing their thing in the NATO exercise in the video below.