The hoverboard we’ve been waiting for has finally arrived
Science fiction promised we would all be zooming around on our own hoverboards well before the turn of the 21st century. Yet personalised propulsion has so far proven elusive, due to an inability to produce and then stabilise the ridiculous amounts of energy needed to defy gravity.
Over the past five years, former world champion jet-skier Franky Zapata has made a personal mission of mastering hydro-propulsion. His most successful commercial product to date is the ESH Flyboard, which utilises a jet-ski to power a craft that can manoeuvre over water. It could hover and swoop, yet remained tethered via the jet-ski to the water below.
His latest project, the Flyboard Air, took four years to develop and finally delivers on the dream of a fully independent hovering experience.
It comprises an ‘autonomous propulsion unit’, a board weighing 20 kilograms that is about the same size as a drone. It contains six jet engines - four on the underside for lift, and one on each side for stabilisation. The pilot controls thrust via a joystick in their hand, and steering is by ‘mass transfer’ - as with a Segway scooter, you lean in the direction you want to steer.
Still in prototype phase, Zapata’s Flyboard Air has already set a new world record for the longest distance travelled on a hoverboard-type flying board. The Flyboard Air has also been designed to continue to work even in the event of an engine failure.
The project now has the backing of Swiss watchmaker Breitling, which will support Zapata’s goal to push the Flyboard’s performance envelope - he is aiming for a top speed to 160km/h and maximum altitude of 3000m. Fun and thrills aside, real-world applications for the Flyboard could include use on oil rigs, in skyscraper or bridge maintenance, or for military use.
“By supporting the Flyboard Air project, Breitling’s intention is once again to foster the spirit of daring and invention that has always characterized aviation since the time of the very first “magnificent men in their flying machines” – that taste for adventure, that combination of daring and discipline, which consistently drive aeronautics to push the boundaries of feasibility,” a spokesperson says.