Hoverboard Circles Bastille Day

According to reports, a turbine-powered flying board buzzed around Bastille Day celebrations carrying its inventor [Franky Zapata] toting a rifle to promote the military applications of the Flyboard Air. You can see the video record, below.

We’ve heard the board costs a cool $250,000 so you may want to start saving now. There are several versions including one that qualifies in the United States as an ultralight. The board Zapata used can reach speeds of 190 km/h and can run for up to 10 minutes, although the website claims 200 km/h is possible and the company also claims to routinely reach 140 km/h. and 6 minute flight times.

The device uses gas turbines and claims to have enough redundancy to survive an engine failure. There’s a video on the website of Zapata deliberately killing an engine to demonstrate that it works. The original Flyboard was made to fly over water, and new Flyboard pilots still train over water, presumably so that crashes don’t kill them.

We covered the Flyboard Air when it was first showing up on YouTube. We aren’t sure exactly when the fancy skateboards usurped the title of hoverboard, but we think Zapata should tell them he wants it back. If you want to fly a bit more economically, you could just go with a conventional ultralight. Just steer clear of the leaf blowers, please.

36 thoughts on “Hoverboard Circles Bastille Day

    1. I was one of those skeptics. Having said that, I appreciate the engineering and sweat required to accomplish this all the more because of my initial doubt. Any technology sufficiently advanced indistinguishable from magic.

      I wonder whether they put just enough irregularities into the original video to bait skeptics like myself. If so, bravo, well played.

  1. To qualify as an ultralight in the US (presumably under FAR103) wouldn’t it’s engine-off stall speed have to be >0 but under 30kts?

    Any US based homebuilders have insight?

      1. Part 103 does not categorize aircraft, and the aircraft it covers aren’t certified or registered, so nothing would need to qualify as any specific category of aircraft. If a helicopter meets all other requirements and can autorotate at speed of 24 knots or lower, it would fit the requirements for flight under part 103. A jet powered hoverboard likely wouldn’t meet that requirement.

    1. FAR 103 indeed sets the FAA rules for ultralights in the USA. “…a powered vehicle must weigh less than 254 pounds; is limited to 5 U.S. gallons of fuel; must have a maximum speed of not more than 55 knots; and must have a poweroff stall speed of no more than 24 knots.”

      It fails the maximum speed requirement of 55 knots.

      This thing must have some sort of computer driven stabilization system. For the money they are charging, they can afford to hang a GPS receiver onto the system and limit speed in software by limiting the thrust vectoring.

      1. thing is that in the event of an engine failure (and we’re talking just any one of them), it’ll fall out of the sky like a rock. No gliding or autorotation…the FAA might have a problem with that.

        1. It’s designed to survive the loss of any one engine.

          Frome the article:
          “The device uses gas turbines and claims to have enough redundancy to survive an engine failure. There’s a video on the website of Zapata deliberately killing an engine to demonstrate that it works.”

          But hey reading is hard right?

    1. Not with the Williams WASP (Williams Aerial Systems Platform), WASP II, or their X-Jet. AKA “Flying Pulpit”. Those used a Williams microturbine similar to what they built for cruise missiles.

      The X-Jet had a flight duration of up to 45 minutes and could hit speeds up to 60 MPH.

      Since those, Williams has produced smaller, lighter, more efficient engines that produce as much thrust as the derated ones used in the WASP and X-Jet. Combined with current lighter weight materials a new version of the X-Jet could have a longer flight duration or be able to carry more payload.

      A military team could fly these into a city to take positions at street level and on roofs. They could fly in between buildings and over obstacles rather than having to be flown in higher up and more exposed by helicopter. Should one get shot down it’d be a loss of only one soldier and gear instead of a helicopter, the whole team, all their gear, and the flight crew.

      1. This Fly-Board is powered by four Jet-Cat P400-Pro engines (https://www.jetcat.de/de/productdetails/produkte/jetcat/produkte/Professionell/p400%20pro).
        This information is given through a facebook post by the company Jet-Cat. (https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=619007478253525&id=549071928580414)

        Very impressive is this jet-engine powered Wing as well:

      2. 45 Minutes is still not very good compared to a Helicopter which is the stated reason why the U.S. dropped their Jet Belt and Pogo development program.

        I also reckon logistics would be a big problem too, considering the packs that I’m aware of required jet fuel, not something you would normally find on the front line of a battle field. So you wouldn’t make it very far before having to stop an wait for your fuel to catch you up.

        Still could be very useful for special operations of course but I don’t think we will see a common solider with anything like a Jet pack anytime soon, even with the advances you mentioned.

        1. Diesel engines are used in front line vehicles specifically because they can burn jet fuel. The M1 tank is a gas turbine engine, so it can burn diesel or jet fuel. Another name for jet fuel is kerosene.

      3. It really seems like any application of a flying human in a combat setting would be so niche you’d pretty much have to have colluded with the people who designed the combat zone. Flying to a roof when ropes exist? Even a rope carried by a drone would be better than a human bobbing around in front of an enemy’s sights.

        1. “better then a human bobbing around in front of an enemy’s sights”
          I dare you to try and actually hit a target like that without a guided missile

          As for combat use – even niche uses are uses. Sniper/ATGM squads, special forces, forward observers, medics… all of these could be adapted to use this.
          The real question is if it’s worth risking their lives because of the inherently low safety of anything that uses only thrust to stay airborne.

  2. You need 116.000 wh just to hover one hour (https://www.wired.com/story/how-much-power-does-it-take-to-fly-in-a-real-life-jet-suit/).

    Net heat density of available fuels is at best 14.000 wh/kg. With a 20% efficiency (commercial jet engines have a 36% ratio) you can hover 30 minutes with 20 kg of fuel.

    Knowing that plutonium-239 has 1 million more energy density, and anti-matter 1 trillion more, you know what you have to do to fly for a year with 100 grams if fuel…

  3. The Fly-Board is powered by four of these jet engines:
    There is a comment on the facebook site of Jet-Cat that is giving this information. (Jet-Cat is the company owned by the inventor of these small jet engines, Markus Zipperer)

    Very impressiv is this jet-engine powered wing as well:

    1. Do you fall over when firing a gun? No? Then you wouldn’t fall over shooting most guns flying this. Your body compensates for the recoil and absorbs it’s. Short of full auto high caliber machine guns (240B plus) you would move very much even firing on full auto. Infact I think a M249SAW or a full auto m16/m4 variant would be the sweet spot for fire power vs cyclic rate. Though a p90 or other high rounds per minute submachine gun would also do nicely.

      While the energy of most fired bullets is nothing to scoff at, it’s pretty minor when compare to the energy needed to outright knock you off your feet. Almost all the people who have ever fallen over after being shot did so due to shock from the damage, not the transfer of momentum from the bullet. The same thing applies when shooting that bullet, the fire arm will kick back at an equal force to the bullet, but not enough to knock you over.

        1. I would strongly suspect the opposite. Seems to me the safest way to perform training would be off of a very high platform or bridge at an altitude where a parachute would be effective.

          Flying under 2000 feet basically guarantees you hit the ground hard if something goes sideways.

          1. Well, tell that to the helicopter community. They start off at about 1 ft AGL. Because when a helicopter goes sideways, altitude is not your friend.

  4. Actually…. (and more importantly “pedantically”)… when helicopters go sideways, attitude IS your friend. Dynamic rollover is a bitch. For non-rotorheads, that’s basically when you start pivoting around a fixed point (usually landing gear) and no matter what you do, you’re rolling over. And spinning rotor blades hitting the ground can be hazardous to ones health.


    1. This was meant as a reply to BigBlueJim.

      And “attitude” should have been “altitude”.

      I’m blaming autocorrect. Definitely couldn’t be the bourbon. Definitely not.

    1. Some observations from that video…

      1, holy crap that’s loud! Headphone volume warning!

      2, that was a real M4 he was flying with. Good thing it wasn’t loaded lol….

      3, the amount of control he has is incredible.

      4, what was going on with that one LED matrix display next to the viewing stands?

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