Franky Zapata is famous for his water-jet Flyboards, which have very quickly become a popular vacation experience, but French jet ski champion keeps pushing the envelope, rethinking the very foundations of human flight. Over the weekend, he released the first video that shows his new Flyboard Air in action. The original Flyboard connects to a Jetski, using its thruster to propel a human operator into the air. As such, it can only be used over large bodies of water, such as a lake or river. The Flyboard Air doesn’t use water at all, untethering it from the ground completely. Instead, this device seems to have a jet turbine engine. This lets Zapata fly free on his completely self-contained aircraft up to 10,000 feet in altitude, for up to ten minutes at a time. The time limit appears to be related to the fuel tanks strapped to his back.
So get this: Zapata is standing on a freaking turbojet engine, with fuel tanks strapped to his back, flying under the 100 foot safety ceiling under which a parachute might operate, with no chute or tethers.
What could possibly go wrong?
In the video he soars as high as 30 meters (98 ft) above the ground, outperforming anything in its class. You can hear the telltale howl of the turbojet engine, so we know what’s providing the thrust. He wisely keeps his flight over water, though, just in case that engine cuts out. Over land, at altitude, a mechanical failure would result in a smear of Zapata raspberry jam ten yards long — assuming an explosion wasn’t his first problem.
The device has a potential ground speed of about 93 miles per hour. This is plenty high enough and fast enough that only people willing to sign an accidental death liability waiver would be able to buy or fly one. There is no word on what something like this would cost, or even if it would be legal to sell it. Even so, Zapata has already proven that he can build similar technology, and looking at the footage, you can see the ground effect and heat distortion from the turbojet engine as he does his maneuvers. This looks like the real thing to us.