Does the way forward for mountaineering contain jetpacks? Perhaps it ought to

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It’s no secret that mountaineering involves risk, but some are looking for an unconventional means of reducing the dangers associated with the sport – jetpacks.

A company called Gravity Industries is designing so-called “jet suits,” wearable technology that allows the user to fly through the air with a backpack on their back and arm-based thrusters.

During a recent test flight, a pilot demonstrated how quickly the machine can climb a peak. The pilot covers 1.2 miles with 2,200 feet of elevation gain in just three minutes and 30 seconds. For comparison, this is basically the equivalent of the legendary Manitou Incline climb of 0.9 miles and 2,000 feet in Colorado, plus a little more. While some of the fastest climbers can reach the top of the Manitou Springs route in under 20 minutes, given the extreme incline of the trail, it usually takes over an hour.

While the recreational use of these machines to climb popular mountains would certainly provoke outrage from the local hiking community, there is one application that could be seen as far more acceptable, even praised – using the suit to speed up search and rescue operations.

While the technology is still relatively new and access fairly limited, a video from a mountainside test flight showing the device pushing its pilot up steep terrain at about 20 feet above the ground could offer a glimpse of the future backcountry search and rescue operations look like.

These suits could not only be used to land rescue workers in locations that might be unsafe for a helicopter, but also allow for rapid search of large areas. The device could also mean a faster response time.

According to Gravity Industries, typical rescues on the mountain featured in their test flight video — a 3,118-foot peak called Helveylln in England — can have a response time on foot of about 70 minutes, much longer than the jetsuit pilot’s three minutes and 30 seconds peak time. The jetsuit pilot would also be less restricted to paths and could take a more direct route to someone in need.

According to Gravity Industries, the suits travel at around 50 to 55 miles per hour, although the record was set at 85 miles per hour. They have about 1,035 horsepower and a dry weight of about 59 pounds, with a flight time that’s typically between five and 10 minutes. It’s easy to see how they could help speed up some aspects of search and rescue in their current form, with future technological improvements likely to make them even more effective.

All of that sounds great, although the price tag might still be a bit restrictive for widespread use with Colorado’s search and rescue teams right now. While there isn’t much information on the price of a unit on Gravity Industries’ website (although custom suits can be requested), a 2021 article puts the price at $440,000.

At the moment, it’s extremely unlikely that a jet suit will be seen rushing to someone’s aid the next time you’re out on the road, but the development of the Gravity Industries jet suit and recent video of its test flight in the mountains make it seem so to reflect Another step towards a real-world and life-saving application of what was once thought to be nothing more than a sci-fi device – the jetpack.

Watch the Gravity Industries jet suit in action below:

Would you like to try a jet suit? It will cost you around $3,000 for a quick flight, or more than $8,000 for a one-day lesson.

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