Paramedics wearing JET SUITS hope to start flying out to stricken fell walkers and ramblers in the Lake District later this summer, it’s been revealed. Training has already enabled a paramedic to successfully complete the first free flight without issue, an air ambulance service has reported, and further instruction and testing is now taking place.
The Great North Air Ambulance Service has welcomed what it called the first stage towards ‘a jet suit-enabled paramedic service’ in Cumbria.
They said the pioneering project – believed to be a world first – initially began in 2020, but was paused due to the coronavirus pandemic. The air ambulance service aims to train experienced paramedics to use the suit for faster access to patients in the event of a medical emergency in the Lake District.
The suit would be able to fly a paramedic to a casualty in seconds, far quicker than teams on foot navigating fells and Cumbria’s mountains like Scafell Pike and Helvellyn.
“At this early stage, the training has already enabled one paramedic to complete their first free flight, safely operating the Jet Suit unassisted, with more paramedics reaching this stage soon,” said the GNAAS in a statement. “The next stage, looking to commence in the summer, will bring paramedics’ flight skills to a level where real operational experience can be assessed – and real assistance will arrive via jet suit paramedics in the Lake District.”
They said on-site triage and urgent casualty response should ‘drastically improve patient stability and survivability’. The service has partnered with renewable energy leader Ørsted and Gravity Industries, the company behind the jetpack suit.
Andy Mawson, Director of Operations at GNAAS, said: “We think the jet suit paramedic will speed up the response to some hard to access patients in the Lake District, and allow us to reach more patients. But in order to know for sure, we are putting it to the test.
“The most recent trials in the area, held at the start of the month, were a great success and showed how far and how quickly the jet suit can reach otherwise inaccessible locations. Thanks to Ørsted, this incredible dream could become a reality.”
Gravity Industries designs, builds, and flies the patented jet suit. It comprises three small jet propulsion engines – attached to the paramedic’s arm and back – and can produce up to 144kg of thrust.
The GNAAS stressed a flight up the side of a fell would be at a relatively slow speed and close to the ground, mitigating safety risks. The jet suit would be strapped into the boot of a response vehicle and the suit has a carrying capacity of around 10-15kg, the weight of a full paramedic rucksack currently in use. Kit would include a defibrillator, medical treatment equipment and patient monitoring systems.
The GNAAS said the kit would be placed in pouches accessible on the pilot’s legs and chest. Built into the helmet is a display showing engine parameters and speed.
Richard Browning, founder and chief test pilot at Gravity Industries, said: “Our drive for creating the suit came from wanting to challenge what seemed like the impossible and to now see it being used for areas of special forces mobility and first response search and rescue , it’s very exciting. We’re enjoying working in a new sector and helping the front line workers in clean energy.
“The jet suit produces up to 144kg of thrust. The thrust to weight ratio works out to be greater than any known jet fighter we are aware of.”
Peter Teglman Schiøler, product owner for O&M Logistics at Orsted, said: “With safety at the forefront of everything we do, we want to explore ways of getting emergency help to our colleagues in times of need.
“With strong innovation opportunities in the UK, we hope to connect the offshore wind industry into this environment. With the trial together with Gravity and GNAAS, we aim to bring the jet suit technology closer to the offshore wind industry and enable the Lake District to assess the usage of this technology for first aid support.”
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