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A defense tech firm is buying the company behind the jet-powered hoverboard

A defense tech firm is buying the company behind the jet-powered hoverboard

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Zapata Industries

Zapata Industries, the company behind the jet-powered hoverboard known as the Flyboard Air, is about to be purchased by a defense tech company called Implant Sciences. The two parties announced the intent of sale in a statement that was released today.

Implant Sciences has spent years making machines that can detect explosives for customers like the TSA and the Department of Homeland Security. The company is publicly traded on the OTCQB exchange, and the deal is subject to the approval of its shareholders. If and when the deal goes through, Implant Sciences says it could apply to be traded on the NASDAQ exchange, a move that could also include the sale of its explosives detection business.

Robert Liscouski, Implant Sciences’ president, said that the company decided earlier this year to start looking for "other opportunities in the same security and defense field." That’s where the Flyboard Air comes in. "You can call it a hoverboard, call it a Flyboard, call it independent transportation — you have a potential game-changing technology in a space where you can define the market," Liscouski told The Verge. "It’s got a wow factor that you can’t ignore. The first reaction is ‘Holy crap, is that real?’ And then once you get past that you’re like ‘Wow, I can really see that applying to a lot of things.’"

Flying stretchers, jetbikes, and hoverboards, oh my

In the statement about the acquisition, Implant Sciences names some of those potential applications, like "flying medical stretchers," or "jetbikes," and even "floating rescue stations, scaffoldings and unmanned heavy payload delivery drones."

Liscouski declined to elaborate on potential uses, and instead focused more on how Implant Sciences will use its established defense industry relationships to figure out what the technology could be used for. "You need people who are going to be able to figure out if they can actually use this stuff," he said. "Quite candidly, the military is the first in line because they look for ways to get what would be equivalent to a competitive advantage [in the field]."

"The military is first in line"

Zapata maintained a relatively low profile over the last two decades, first as a racing team and then as a maker and seller of water-based products like the original Flyboard and another product called, coincidentally enough, the Hoverboard. Both of those products used water for propulsion and needed to be tethered to a jet ski in order to work. But this past spring the company released a video of its CEO riding an untethered version of the Flyboard that appeared to use jet engines. While that original video sparked a number of claims that the Flyboard Air was fake, CEO Franky Zapata eventually used the kerosene-fueled hoverboard to set a world record when he flew 2.2 kilometers (1.4 miles) along the coast of Sausset-les-Pins in France.

Liscouski said the acquisition won’t disrupt the development plans Zapata already had in place for the Flyboard Air. "Our philosophy is if it ain’t broke don’t fix it," he said. "We’re looking at ways that we can facilitate and enable Franky to get into the marketplace where he doesn’t have access and where we think we can really enable that, such as the DOD and the security space here on the US side."

Speaking with The Verge back in April, Franky Zapata mentioned that he was hoping to create and release a more consumer-friendly version of the Flyboard Air, but emphasized that nothing was set in stone. "You know when you decide to have a child, you decide to have a child because you want it. You don’t decide to have a child because it will become a surgeon, or a lawyer," he said. "For us it was the same thing, when we decide to create something, we create it, and after we just follow what ways the project can go."