Franky Zapata, the French jet ski champion who also invented the Flyboard Air, an actual hoverboard rather than one of those silly wheeled things that start on fire, rubbished the existing record flight of 905 by flying 7,388 feet on Saturday to earn a Guinness World Record and viral video.
Who would have thought hoverboards before jetpacks
I wasn’t alive when Sean Connery as James Bond found himself equipped with a jet pack by Q branch in the 1960’s film “Thunderball.” That flight for many saw jetpacks as a legitimate future conveyance, that hasn’t lived up to potential in nearly 50 years. Skip to “Back to The Future Part II” and Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly and Doc Brown take a trip to the future of 2015 where McFly has a hoverboard not a jetpack.
While we clearly remain a ways away from the hoverboard that he was riding, we seem to be getting a lot closer than my frickin jetpack.
Last year, Canadian inventor Catalin Alexandru Duru flex his hoverboard over 900 feet to hold the record for the longest hoverboard flight. But on Saturday, about 200 people gathered to watch Franky Zapata, another inventor, fly his Flyboard Air more than 2,252 meters (7,388) feet) off the coast of Sausset-les-Pins in the south of France.
The flight had little to do with the fact that he’s a jet ski champion, the two are unrelated. Jet Skis travel on water, not above it, the over-water flight by each inventor was simply done for safety’s sake as water has a tendency to break your fall a bit better than asphalt.
The company claims that the Flyboard Air with its “Independent Propulsion Unit” can fly for about ten minutes. The company also claims it can up to 93 miles per hour or achieve a height of 10,000 but given it’s limited flight time which would be severely limited by a speed of 90 mph flight and wouldn’t reach 10,000 feet with any danger of returning to the ground in time makes both points claims, and they are claims, a bit moot. Water might be more forgiving than asphalt, it isn’t at 10,000 feet.
Finally after five years his hoverboard
Following the flight, Zapata thanked his team and told reporters that “This has really been a life’s work,” ignoring the fact that he’s only spent the last five years working on the Flyboard Air.
During the flight, Zapata comfortably took the board to about 100 feet above the sea while boats and jet skis followed.
“It’s an amazing sensation, it’s really peaceful,” he said. “I open my arms because it helps me control my movements, but when you open your hands and you feel the wind go through your hand and you have nothing under your feet — it’s hard to describe, really. You have to experience this moment in your life.”
“My goal is to ride the clouds.”
He certainly seems to have the power with four 250-horsepower turboengines, with an additional two engines on each side of the board for necessary stabilization. The problem is the fuel needed, and the fact that it was strapped to his back which clearly has weight limitations. That fuel? Jet A1 kerosene in a tank. The rider, seemingly for now just Zapata, controls the throttle with a hand-held remote.
Applications and the future of the hoverboard
He’s not joking. “You won’t believe it. We will fly the clouds,” Zapata told The Verge earlier in April following a test flight. “My goal is to ride the clouds. Do like snowboarding in the powder, but I want to do it in a cloud. That’s my dream, and I will do my best to realize that.”
Prior to Saturday’s flight, Zapata says that he flew his Flyboard for about two hours.
Zapata is well aware that flight time is what is holding his project back from mainstream adoption. Not to mention the FAA, Department of Transportation, federal, state and local laws.
He sees law enforcement and military applications, a nice relief for an inventor that doesn’t just have lofty goals but wants some money.
“If people are able to fly like this, they can be some kind of superhuman,” he said. “And they can help save people in this completely mad world.”
While that seems a bit far off, and it is, it does remain a bit of a struggle in my mind that I’m likely to have a viable consumer option for an actual, honest-to god hoverboard before I’m getting a jet-pack and given the need for a kerosene tank on my back, why be bothered with strapping on a jet pack. Hell, I can skateboard.