Military institutions all over the world are constantly looking for ways to develop the next generation of weapons. These include tech like new combat helmets with HUD (heads-up display), improved body armor, future battleships, drones capable of delivering a deadly punch. Or what about a prototype hoverboard called the Flyboard Air for personal flight?
It’s also referred to as an Independent Propulsion Unit (IPU). It’s the result of a 4 year long research and development project headed by inventor Franky Zapata. Better known for the Water Flyboard he invented five years ago, more recent projects include the Flyboard Pro Series, Hoverboard and Jet Pack.
Flyboard Air Hoverboard takes to the skies
For those who don’t know, Franky Zapata is a former Jet Ski racer and world champion in the water sports league. He achieved proof of concept when the Flyboard Air was deemed the lightest, safest, fastest, most reliable and affordable personal flight system currently on the market.
This particular model is operated by a hand-held remote and can reach a height of 3000 meters (10 000 feet). That’s almost 10 times higher than The Shard in Southwark. Zapata demonstrated the capabilities of the Flyboard Air at an airshow in Lake Havasu City and also at a nearby beach. He flew above the water using only the remote. From the ground it looked to have great control, can reach a speed of 150km/h and can stay airborne for around 10 minutes.
It was so impressive many people believed it to be a hoax. Possibly due to some questionable video editing but it certainly is the real deal.
Flight time can be improved upon but as a prototype, it’s a revolutionary innovation. To date, details of exactly how it works have not yet been disclosed. Nobody knows the type of components or what powers the craft either.
Here is a short video of a test flight where Zapata flies a few meters above the water and successfully lands on a platform.
Military Applications – Flying soldiers
The Zapata trademark is a world leader in the development and manufacturing of hydro and jet-powered products and technologies. Their designs are patented but are currently being used and developed in the military, entertainment, medical and industrial sectors.
Details are classified but it is confirmed that Zapata is working with US Army on possible military applications. The future of flying soldiers is no longer a fantasy or science fiction. It could be battle-ready earlier than we think as the Army aims to make it available to US soldiers.
In fact, Zapata sold his company to Implant Science, a supplier to the Department of Homeland Security in the US. If this doesn’t indicate the possible military applications of the Flyboard Air, nothing will.
From concept to prototype to active duty
The Flyboard Air could become a vital part of the armed forces. To a degree, it could even replace the use of helicopters on short-range missions as they are big, noisy with high maintenance and repair costs. In saying that, helicopters are still one of the most important military assets and it’s nigh impossible to completely replace them.
Stealthier and smaller, the Flyboard Air can provide soldiers with great combat capabilities without relying on helicopters. They will be able to individually gain access to high-rise buildings or traverse difficult terrain. The Flyboard Air is certainly a forerunner in the development of personal flight and with big military interest.
Back to the future fans might compare it to Marty’s hoverboard and you’d be right. But combine that with combat capabilities, the superior altitude and speed and you’ll only scratch the surface of its potential. Who knows, perhaps in the not so distant future it can be the catalyst for an Iron Man-type suit.
The Flyboard Air is not yet available to the general public but earlier versions are. They can be purchased worldwide between £1 500 ($2600) and £9 600 ($12 000) and can be rented from various outlets in the US and UK. If you want to try out one of the Flyboards, click here to browse for a center near you.
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