Researchers at Arizona State University have developed a jetpack that they hope will help people reach the four-minute mile mark.
Developed with the help of the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) and dubbed the 4MM (for four-minute mile), the jetpack was designed for soldiers in the field who need to get in and out of situations quickly. Thomas Sugar, professor at the university’s Human Machine Integration Laboratory, and his team were originally developing robotic systems that could assist amputees when DARPA asked if they could put something together that would allow able-bodied people to run faster. Jason Kerestes, an engineering graduate student at ASU, was brought onto the project because he also owned a welding business. His work gave birth to the 4MM.
“Our overall goal is to get any soldier or any test subject at the time to be able to run a four-minute mile,” Kerestes said in a promotional video about the project. “These devices can really help soldiers to not only accomplish their goals and succeed in their missions, but potentially save human lives as well.”
The team tested the 4MM on Alexander Chapin, a multimedia specialist and athlete. Chapin can normally run a 200-meter time trial unassisted in 28 seconds. With the 4MM, he ran it in 25 seconds despite the added 11.2 pounds strapped to his back. “Over trials over a 200-meter distance, we definitely saw a decrease in time and a decrease in metabolic cost, the amount of energy required for a person to run at high speeds,” Kerestes said.
When the team had Chapin run the mile with the jetpack, he shaved 18 seconds off his usual time, from 5 minutes, 20 seconds to 5 minutes, 2 seconds.
With the prototype finished, Kerestes is now working on refining it for better performance.