Who wants a hoverboard? No, not those non-hovering skateboard derivatives – we mean real-life, levitating forms of transportation. Remarkably, they already exist. They aren’t as common as the film “Back to the Future II” may have prophesized, but the Hendo Hover and the Lexus Slide, both of which use magnetism to propel themselves around, are genuine hoverboards.
However, unless you have your own magnetic tracks and a boatload of cash, you won’t be able to afford or even use these devices in the near future. Fortunately, an entrepreneurial French jet ski champion named Franky Zapata has come to your rescue. Building off his previous technical achievements – using water-powered jetpacks to fly over the sea – he has now showcased his latest invention: An untethered hoverboard, powered by jet thrust, which is able to fly its passenger across the water.
Zapata takes to the skies on the new device. Flyboard by ZR via YouTube
In the video above, Zapata soars up to 30 meters (100 feet) from the ground at speeds of up to 55 kilometers per hour (34 miles per hour). He claims that his hoverboard, codenamed Flyboard Air, can fly higher than 3 kilometers (roughly 10,000 feet), for 10 minutes, moving at speeds of 150 kilometers per hour (93 miles per hour). Details of how the hoverboard works are currently few and far between, but it appears to be powered by a single jet turbine engine and a backpack of fuel.
This all seems somewhat unrealistic, and there's a chance that this could very well be the case. Until more concrete evidence surfaces, the device's capabilities should perhaps be taken with a pinch of salt. It's not actually clear how Zapata is even piloting the hoverboard apart from leaning in the desired direction of travel, somewhat like a futuristic Segway.
If the claims are true, however, flying at that altitude and that speed is both impressive and the very epitome of insane. From the video, it’s very clearly that one small mistake, one wrong step, would cause the pilot to fall off, culminating in a rather unfortunate reunion with the ground.
Engine failure might not be fatal to the passenger if a parachute is kept on board, but here’s the catch: They’d have to already be flying high enough, several hundred meters up, to allow the parachute to actually work. All in all, if the hoverboard is real, it's certainly incredibly dangerous.
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Zapata Racing via YouTube
As reported by Gizmag, a jetpack that can achieve similar feats already exists. The brainchild of inventor and aviator David Mayman, he flew the surprisingly agile JB-9 around the Statue of Liberty, pausing to salute halfway. This particular creation runs on kerosene fuel and generates thrust using twin jet engines, which is probably how the Flyboard Air works. In fact, the jetpack wielders are so confident of their own form of transport that they’ve actually challenged Zapata and his hoverboard to a race.
The JB-9 in action. JetPack Aviation via YouTube