The “Ironman,” “The Rocketeer,” and “Thunderball” movies have one thing in common: main characters who use jet packs to take flight. So what if, for a moment, this line between cinematic science-fiction and modern-day science intersected in reality?
Well, that moment has arrived. Jason Kerestes, 29, an engineering master’s student at ASU, has created a jet pack device, but the only difference between his creation and those in these movies is that his doesn’t allow people to take flight. Instead, Kerestes’ jet pack makes it possible for U.S. soldiers to run a four-minute mile.
The Pentagon Agency committed to funding breakthrough technology for National Security purposes. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) originally gave to a cause that could assist U.S. soldiers in decreasing their mile per minute running speed. Answering the call for technological advances, Kerestes, with the assistance of Thomas Sugar, an associate professor in the Department of Engineering, College of Technology and Innovation at ASU,came up with the idea of creating a wearable jet pack, and they personally financed the entire device.
“All the financial contributions came from Dr. Sugar and me,” Kerestes says. “It was difficult, but we can [build and use]a lot of stuff in-house.”
The idea for the jet pack came from a previous device—AirLegs—Kerestes created, and even in its infancy, the device is a game-changer.
“Really, one of the things I find myself thinking about is how amazing the human body already is. Augmenting the human body is difficult, but technology has improved to the point that fiction is starting to become a reality. Technology is on the right path to making it possible,” he says.
Fitting the average person just like a backpack, the jet pack doesn’t have to be reconfigured from person to person, but because Kerestes has yet to perfect the pack’s battery technology, its power won’t last much longer than four minutes. Once turned on, the fan-fueled jet pack has instantaneous thrust, creating 15 pounds of force, which makes the pack’s punch more than its 11-pound total weight.
“It’s not going to blow you over. It produces a 15-pound force, and it’s not enough to overturn you or make you fall. It just allows anyone to run faster,” he says. “I’ve designed some safety features. There’s a hand control, and you’re holding a trigger, so if you fall, you can stop it immediately.”
Once Kerestes and his team can perfect the jet pack’s battery technology, it’s likely the project will be used by U.S. soldiers. In the meantime, however, Kerestes finished his thesis work in early November, and he will be graduating in December with an even brighter future than he could have ever imagined.