French inventor will attempt to cross English Channel on jet-powered hoverboard

French inventor will attempt to cross English Channel on jet-powered hoverboard

The inventor of the Flyboard Air, Franky Zapata, says he plans to cross the English Channel on his jet-powered hoverboard on Thursday to mark the 110th anniversary of the first airplane flight between Britain and France, The Guardian reports. Zapata says he’ll fly between Sangatte and St Margaret’s Bay in a crossing that should only take around 20 minutes at speeds up 140 km/h (around 87 mph).

The crossing will be a challenge for the French inventor, who has previously said that it takes between 50 and 100 hours of practice on the company’s previous water-powered Flyboard just to be able to stand up on the jet-powered Flyboard Air. Speaking to The Parasian Zapata said that his last flight, a demonstration flight over the crowds at Bastille Day, used about 3 percent of the hoverboard’s capabilities, compared with 99.9 percent for the Channel crossing. He estimated his chances of success as being around 30 percent.

The hoverboard itself contains five turbo engines, according to The Guardian, each of which are capable of producing around 250 horsepower each. There are three parts of the machine; the board, a handheld remote control, and a fuel tank that Zapata wears on his back. The setup means that the Flyboard Air is only able to fly for around 10 minutes at a time, so Zapata will need to stop to refuel halfway.

Exactly where he will refuel has been contentious on the busy crossing. Concerns raised by the French maritime authority mean that Zapata will only be able to use a single refueling ship station along the journey, instead of two as originally planned. Zapata will either land on the ship to refuel, or will attempt to refuel as he hovers above it, thus allowing for a single continuous flight.

Back in 2016, Zapata set a world record for the farthest hoverboard flight when he flew the Flyboard Air along the south coast of France for 2,252 meters. However, at roughly 35 km, his Channel crossing is over ten times as long. At least we know Zapata has successfully crashed into water before. Although the crash broke all the Flyboard Air’s electronics, it didn’t do Zapata any serious harm.

Eventually, the Flyboard Air could end up as a tool used by the military. The French armed forces have expressed an interest in the technology as either a logistical or assault tool, according to The Guardian, and the French government defense and procurement agency gave Zapata a €1.3m grant to develop the hoverboard last year. In 2017 the defense tech firm Implant Sciences attempted to purchase Zapata Industries, but the plans later fell through.

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