Hoverboards have arrived: A trip across the channel

Image: LoveBoat/CC By 3.0
Date:6 August 2019 Author: Sam Spiller Tags:, , , , , , , , ,

Franky Zapata reached speeds beyond 170km/h as he became the first to fly across the English Channel on a hoverboard.

Hoverboards have long been the stuff of futuristic dreams. The concept of a platform that can float above the ground carrying a passenger was first described by author, M.K. Joesph, in his 1967 sci-fi work, The Hole in the Zero. It was only in 1989 that hoverboards really began to take off in the public eye, when Marty McFly flew one to safety in Back to the Future II. Since then, the technology has been experimented with, yet it has been slow to produce anything realistic. That is no longer the case.

This week, French inventor, Franky Zapata, became the first person to fly a hoverboard across the English Channel. Zapata was using a jet-powered board that allowed him to reach speeds of up to 170km/h during the 35-kilometre trip. He had to stop for fuel though. Given that he had only ten minutes worth on board, he had to land on a refueling platform at the midway point.

This was the second time that Zapata had tried to cross the channel. The first time he came short by a few centimetres, just missing the refueling platform and crashing into the sea. In response to this, the platform was made bigger and was accompanied by French navy boats in case of an emergency.

The Flyboard Air, as Zapata calls his jet-propelled board, set a world record back in 2016 for the longest distance flown. He flew it along the South coast of France for two-and-a-quarter kilometres. He also made an appearance at this year’s Bastille Day celebrations in Paris, as part of a military demonstration.

The Flyboard Air takes flight thanks to five turbine engines that use electric propellers to produce thrust. An onboard computer works to to keep the craft and its pilot stable, while the pilot controls his elevation and rotation via a handheld lever. In terms of energy, the Air uses kerosene fuel which is stored in a backpack connected to the craft.

Zapata has future plans for his creation. He has said that he wants to fly the hoverboard at a greater height, something that would require him to also carry an oxygen tank and parachute. The technology has the attention of the French defence force, who are considering it for transportation and combat applications. However, there is still a way to go before a hoverboard such as the Flyboard Air can be bought off the store shelf.

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