Jetpacks have always excited anyone with a thirst for speed and altitude. They have been put on cars, rockets, and even humans who want to soar high in the air or on water, albeit for small amounts of time. But Arizona State University has envisioned a slightly different use for jetpacks. It has developed a few shoulder-mounted prototypes, just like those that help you fly, but these jetpacks won’t lift you up in the air. Instead, these jetpacks are meant to help soldiers run faster.
Arizona State University routinely comes up with innovative solutions for the armed forces. However, these jetpacks sure seem a bit odd. Nonetheless, the university is confident that by using these special miniaturized jetpacks, soldiers will be able to run a mile under four minutes.
Titled 4MM, which stands for 4 Minute Mile, the wearable jetpack started off as a student project that was meant to improve the speed and agility of able-bodied people. So far, prosthetic and mechanical appendages have been designed to be fitted on amputees and soldiers who have been rendered immobile. These artificial limbs, supported by miniature computers mounted on the device itself, have been able to successfully offer mobility and freedom of movement to war heroes.
However, DARPA has always wanted to improve upon what nature has built into the humans. Time and again the defense agency has envisioned projects that attempt to push the limits of what soldiers can do. This time around, it was looking to accord the gift of speed and agility to soldiers who want to enter and exit a hostile environment in quick sprints.
Though the 4MM project did theoretically work, there is still a lot of ground to cover. Under test conditions, a sprinter was able to shave off 3 seconds of his 1 mile dash. Interestingly, the sprinter cut down the time as compared to his regular lap-time, despite carrying an extra 11 pounds. Imagine what the jetpack could do if its weight is significantly reduced.
Soldiers often carry a lot of baggage when they go into a combat situation. In recent times, Boston Dynamics managed to build an autonomous robot mule that could follow the designated soldier. Built to carry 120 pounds, the mule greatly reduced the burden that a soldier has to lug on his or her back. If the jetpack is sent with the same soldier, he or she might be able to respond better and faster.
[Image Credit | Vimeo]