With this thing strapped on, even you could run a 4-minute mile

An Arizona State University engineering student has revved up a jetpack that helps runners move faster while expending less energy.

Running a 4-minute mile is an incredible feat, and one not too many people can boast. To accomplish it, runners must maintain an average speed of 15 miles per hour, and it takes serious strength and endurance to do that. But what if every Joe Jogger could run this fast?

Enter Arizona State University engineering student Jason Kerestes and his 4MM (4 Minute Mile) project, which gives runners the speed boosts they need to get to 15 mph by attaching a jetpack to their lower backs for instant thrust. Because Kerestes wants to propel people forward instead of up into the sky, the 4MM jetpack thrusters feature dual-jet nozzles that face behind the runner to propel movement.

The dual jets on the jetpack generate continuous thrust that helps runners move faster than they could on their own, all while reducing their metabolic energy expenditures. The prototype jetpack itself was built in Kerestes' own welding shop, and uses lithium batteries attached to fans to shoot bursts of air for propulsion.

The 4MM project is still in the testing phase, but initial results are promising. One of the study's test subjects ran an unassisted mile in 5 minutes and 20 seconds, and ran it in just 5 minutes and 2 seconds (a 5.625 percent decrease) with the 4MM. The same subject also experienced a 10-12 percent improvement during a 200-meter sprint, shaving a full 3 seconds off his time despite wearing the 11-pound pack.

While Kerestes hasn't quite gotten the average Joe down to a 4-minute mile, he can demonstrate marked improvements that future iterations of the 4MM can build upon.

Research for the 4MM jetpack was initially funded in part by the U.S. Department of Defense and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), with the goal of assisting soldiers in certain combat situations. The 4MM is part of the ASU program called iProjects, which brings students and industry together to find innovative solutions to real-world problems.

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Kick your speed up a notch with this dual-jet jetpack. Video screenshot by Anthony Domanico/CNET
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