WQCS Header Background Image
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

British Company Tests A Jet Suit That Could Change Future Of Emergency Care

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Turns out that dream you had as a kid about flying around like a superhero - it might not be that far-fetched.

(SOUNDBITE OF JET SUIT WHIRRING)

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

That's the sound of Richard Browning taking off in a jet suit. Yeah, seriously - took off over the mountainous region of northern England called the Lake District.

RICHARD BROWNING: It was a beautiful, sunny day. It was pretty - a pretty easy climb.

CORNISH: If Browning sounds a little casual, it might be because he's taken thousands of flights like this. He's the founder of a company called Gravity Industries. He invented this jet suit. But this particular flight was special. It was a proof of concept for a new kind of first responder.

BROWNING: Some months back, the Great North Air Ambulance reached out and said that they, based on analysis of many years of incidents in the mountainous area of the Lake District - they had this hunch.

KELLY: This hunch that a jet suit might be faster than paramedics sprinting up trails on foot or even piling into a helicopter. So they set up a test scenario. How fast could Browning reach a 10-year-old girl who's fallen from a cliff and seriously injured her leg? Gravity Industries made a video of the whole thing.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BROWNING: OK - check, check.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Yeah, I got you loud and clear. (Unintelligible).

BROWNING: (Unintelligible).

CORNISH: Honestly, Browning looks a little like Iron Man in this bright-red jumpsuit with his black helmet covering his face. And there's a turtle-shell-style jet engine on his back and jet turbines attached to each of his forearms.

KELLY: He floats gracefully over rolling hills, grass billowing beneath him. He says the feeling when you're up in the air...

BROWNING: It is pretty hard to describe. It is the most free, liberating, kind of dreamlike state you get.

CORNISH: He lands next to the injured hiker, checks the clock.

BROWNING: We managed to get to the casualty in 90 seconds when it was taking 25 minutes to walk there.

CORNISH: Andy Mawson, who's a paramedic with the local service, can be seen in the video, watching the whole thing play out.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ANDY MAWSON: Incredible moment - truly, truly incredible moment. It's absolutely astounding how quickly we're going to be at somebody's side that needs us.

KELLY: No word yet on when jet suit paramedics might be ready for actual emergencies, but it's hard to disagree with Mawson when he says the rescue was quite honestly awesome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.