Watch: Medic uses jet suit to hover over mountains, water for rescue response

Great North Air Ambulance Service in the United Kingdom demonstrated a test of new flight technology for rescues on difficult terrain

At a price of more than $400,000, a jet suit is not likely to be parked in your apparatus bay anytime soon. But that should not keep us from considering the possibilities. Read more about how COVID-19 has accelerated the development of and interest in new tech, from AED drone delivery to telemedicine, in this analysis from EMS1/Lexipol Editorial Director Greg Friese, MS, NRP.

By Laura French

UNITED KINGDOM — A British air ambulance service has demonstrated new technology that allows a paramedic to hover over hills, mountains and bodies of water for rescue missions involving difficult terrain. 

Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS) worked with Gravity Industries to develop a jet suit for use by rescue personnel, and shared a video showing a rescue exercise in the mountainous Lake District national park. 

The agency said in a statement that the Lake District draws about 15 million visitors per year and that GNAAS responds to many incidents at the park. The terrain makes it difficult for helicopters to land close to a patient, forcing rescue personnel to spend additional time reaching the patient by foot or ground vehicle. 

The test flight conducted on Sept. 8 showed that a medic wearing the jet suit could reach a patient in 90 seconds, while a person on foot would need to climb for 25 minutes to travel the same distance, according to the agency.

"We could see the need. What we didn't know for sure is how this would work in practice," said GNAAS Director of Operations and paramedic Andy Mawson, in a statement. "Well, we've seen it now, and it is, quite honestly, awesome." 

The 1,050-horsepower jet suit system has five miniature jet engines — two on each hands and one built into a backpack — takes jet A1 or diesel fuel, can fly for 5-10 minutes at a time, weighs 27 kg (just under 60 lbs) and can reach a maximum speed of 85 miles per hour, according to GNAAS.

"We think this technology could enable our team to reach some patients much quicker than ever before," Mawson stated. "In many cases, this would ease the patient's suffering. In some cases, it would save their lives." 

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