A Jetpack That Keeps Its Wearer On The Ground
LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:
For years, it did not seem humanly possible to run a mile in four minutes. Even when raging bulls were sent reset behind the runners for extra incentive, they failed. The four-minute mile was finally cracked in 1954, but ordinary folks just cannot run that fast. And that's where a new jet pack comes in.
(SOUNDBITE OF JET PACK)
WERTHEIMER: That's the sound of a jet pack developed by researchers at Arizona State University. It's designed to give soldiers forward thrust, a thrust fast enough to run a four-minute mile. Engineering Master's student Jason Kerestes researched and designed the 11-pound prototype.
JASON KERESTES: The jet pack is electrically powered, and it uses two high-speed, electric-ducted fans. And each of these fans pull in about a hundred amps at 25 volts. So that's 2,500 watts per motor. The benefit of the electric version is that we have instantaneous thrust. Our motors can go from zero to 60,000 RPM's in under a second, delivering full thrust almost instantaneously.
WERTHEIMER: The thrusters mean the wearer's use less energy, saving their stamina. It also improves the agility.
KERESTES: And if you were to envision a scenario where a Special Forces soldier did have to go in someplace quiet or, you know, even loud, if they can run faster and either get away from people that might be shooting at them, for example, it's much harder to hit a fast-moving target versus a slow-moving target.
WERTHEIMER: And even though it never seemed to be an issue for the $6 million man, running at speeds that we are not designed for has its risks.
KERESTES: Obviously, when you're running at speeds in excess of 15 miles an hour, which is a four-minute mile, if you trip and fall it's going to hurt. The only other risk that there potentially is, is that the batteries could heat up because there's quite a bit of current draw. But we haven't experienced any issues with that so far.
WERTHEIMER: So if we can produce this kind of technology now, what is possible in the future?
KERESTES: Today, we have a jet pack that you can run on the ground with. But I would like to hope to see that, you know, there's really no limit to the technology. And as the years pass, we might be, you know, seeing things like this on average, everyday people or even jet packs that make people fly.
WERTHEIMER: Jason Kerestes, mastermind behind this four-minute mile jet pack and engineering Master's student at Arizona State University. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.