A new video from Zapata Racing — the company that makes those the water- and jet ski-powered Flyboards we got to ride last summer — shows founder Franky Zapata zooming back and forth over a small lake strapped to some sort of aircraft engine, Green Goblin-style. Yes, Zapata has apparently created a hoverboard with enough power to work on water.
What's surprising is that Zapata was apparently able cut out all the Flyboard's extras — the watercraft, the long hoses, the water as a means of propulsion — and build a sort of small, personal aircraft. And since Zapata's company has already dubbed one of its water-powered products a hoverboard, he's calling this new machine the "Flyboard Air."
Zapata knows his flying machines, but the video is suspect
If anyone would know how to fly something like this, it would likely be Zapata. But the video is pretty unbelievable — there appears to be drone footage mixed in with the shots of Zapata flying over the water, and we don't get a clear look of him taking off or landing. Zapata Racing also makes some outrageous claims about the Flyboard Air's capabilities, saying that the "Independent Propulsion Unit" can fly autonomously for 10 minutes with a ceiling of 10,000 feet, and it has a top speed of 93 miles per hour (150 kilometers per hour). There are no details on how Zapata is controlling the craft, exactly what's powering it, or what would happen if the engine were to fail. A representative for Zapata Racing tells The Verge that no further details are being released, but claimed the video is real, that Zapata performed the flight with no safety tethers, and that he would have just fallen into the water had something gone wrong. (Which — at that speed and height — ouch.)
Zapata isn't peerless here — Canadian inventor Catalin Alexandre Duru set a Guinness World Record last year with a similar (but propellor-powered) hoverboard flight over a lake. Some companies have also made some real hoverboards, too. The CEO of ArcaSpace, a small aerospace company, recently built and flew a fan-powered rectangle. Arx Pax, which makes maglev technology used by both NASA and SpaceX's Hyperloop competition, created a smaller hoverboard with more restricted movement. And Lexus built arguably the truest expression of a hoverboard, at least in the eyes of Back to the Future.
The thing with those companies is that each of their hoverboards were less actual products and more marketing campaigns. Real or not, Flyboard Air could just be a way to drum up business for Zapata Racing's existing products. Or it could be the next beachside thrill ride — if you're willing to strap yourself to a turbine.
Update April 11th, 8:31PM ET: Zapata Racing has uploaded a second video of the test flight to its Facebook page, which you can see below.