Jet Suits for paramedics in the Lake District are trialled successfully.

Yes, you read that right, full Iron Man style jet suits.

We all know that paramedics and other first responders are real life super heroes. This is an entirely good news story about an awe-inspiring innovation. And right now we can all do with a bit of good news.

Who invented it?

Andy Mawson is the Head of Operations at the Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS). A year ago he took his idea for paramedic jet packs to Gravity Industries. And yesterday they did their first simulated casualty flight.

Gravity Industries was founded in 2017 by Richard Browning, “who dared to aske ‘what if?’”. They research and develop ‘pioneering aeronautical innovation’ and “augment the body and mind with a suite of patent pending technology to enable unparalleled human flight.” How’s that for a brand purpose?

Richard Browning is the Chief Test pilot for Gravity and the test flight with a simulated casualty exercise on The Band near Bowfell.

Afterwards, he commented: “It was wonderful to be invited to explore the capabilities of the Gravity Jet Suit in an emergency response simulation and work alongside the team at GNAAS. We are just scratching the surface in terms of what is possible to achieve with our technology. Emergency response is one of the areas Gravity are actively pursuing, alongside launching a new commercial training location at the world-renowned Goodwood Estate.”

Mr Mawson’s delighted response: “There are dozens of patients every month within the complex but relatively small geographical footprint of the Lakes. We could see the need. What we didn’t know for sure is how this would work in practice. Well we’ve seen it now and it is, quite honestly, awesome.”

Jet Suit specs

  • 1050 brake horsepower
  • Top speed: 85mph
  • Flight time: 10 minutes maximum
  • Fuel:30 litres
  • A mini engine on each arm and one on the back
  • Controlled by hand movements
  • Engine parameters and speed display are built into the helmet’s navigation system
  • No pilot’s license necessary
  • Maximum two minutes to put on
  • Suit can carry 10-15kg, equipment storage in chest and leg pouches
  • Not suitable during snowstorms or heavy rain

What problem is this solving for the GNAAS?

The Lake District is notoriously difficult for emergency services to navigate, with limited access for both driven vehicles and helicopter landings. This greatly affects the speed at which first responders can reach casualties. It’s also a comparatively small area, so the 10 minute flight time is not a limiting factor.

The new Jet Suits are solving the problem of getting to a casualty as quickly as possible. They can fly a paramedic to a casualty at the top of a fell in 90 seconds to 2 minutes. This is absolutely revolutionary, when you consider that the same journey on foot would take around 30 minutes.

As Mr Mawson points out, “It’s a slow controlled ascent of a hill. It’s not about strapping a rocket to your back and busting off into the air.”

In a BBC interview he said: “The biggest advantage is its speed. If the idea takes off, the flying paramedic will be armed with a medical kit, with strong pain relief for walkers who may have suffered fractures, and a defibrillator for those who may have suffered a heart attack. In a jet pack, what might have taken up to an hour to reach the patient may only take a few minutes, and that could mean the difference between life and death.”

What needs to happen before these are operational?

The GNAAS say: “At present, we have the technical skills and ability to use this equipment. We are still waiting on financial details and logistical resources before we can reach operational status. It’s too early to put a date on becoming operational.”

There are also a couple of issues to resolve in the next round of R&D, for example:

  • Additional elements to the in helmet navigation system, so the paramedic can follow waypoints.
  • Full flight training programme for paramedics to ensure maximum safety

It’s just a great story, isn’t it? Worth pointing out that the GNAAS is not NHS funded and relies entirely on donations.

It’s amazing to think that this first test run in the Lake District has the potential to positively impact critical care situations around the world.

Do let us know if your R&D leads to similarly awesome results. Not only will we help you with your R&D tax relief claim, but we’d love to spread the good news.

Jamie Smith