French hoverboard could see military action infographic
Graphic shows how the FlyBoard Air works.
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TECH

Flyboard Air could have military applications

By Ninian Carter

August 9, 2019 - A jet-powered hoverboard, which successfully crossed the English Channel, is now being tested by the U.S. and French military.

Franky Zapata’s recent Bastille Day appearance in Paris and subsequent crossing of the English Channel using a jet-powered hoverboard, caused public astonishment around the world. But his unique personal aerial vehicle is already of interest to the U.S. and French military, who view it as a possible future flying logistics or assault platform.

A jet-powered hoverboard, looking like something Spider-Man foe the Green Goblin might ride, has piqued the imaginations of people around the world since its dramatic demonstration at the Bastille Day celebrations in Paris in July, and subsequent 35 kilometre flight across the English Channel.

However, the Flyboard Air, to use its proper title, could be more than merely a daredevil’s plaything. Both the U.S. and French military are testing the machine with a view to it possibly becoming a new flying logistics or assault platform. In fact, so serious are the French, that they’ve pumped $1.5 million into the project to, among other things, develop new, quieter engines.

Inventor Franky Zapata’s show-stealing appearance in Paris on July 14, when he flew down the Champs-Élysées brandishing an assault rifle, gave the public a fanciful vision of what the soldier of the future could look like. But is it really a possibility or just a flight of fancy?

Marion Laguës, spokeswoman for the French Defence Innovation Agency says: “As it stands, the FlyBoard Air has no operational use. That’s because it has limited autonomy, it is hardly inconspicuous, and it is difficult to fly. But it prefigures new uses. It is the development prospects that are interesting, and the Ministry of Defence is studying the kinds of mission that this sort of aircraft might carry out.”

Calling it an “aircraft” initially caused Zapata some problems in 2017, namely the grounding of his machine as it was uncertified, and because he had no pilot’s licence. However, after Zapata reached out to the French military for help, the civil aviation authority granted him special dispensation to continue test flying his experimental hoverboard.

PUBLISHED: 09/08/2019; STORY: Graphic News; PICTURES: Getty Images
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