Flyboard: how the “flying segway” works and how to use it

Extreme and the former world champion in aquabike Frankie Zapata could not contain his annoyance when flying flyboards in his native France were banned. “This is how innovators are treated in our country, ” he wrote on his Facebook page. - And this is after we have already produced more than 10 thousand flyboards with the inscription “Made in France”! ”However, the officials in charge of the regulation of air traffic can sympathize with it.“ It’s impossible to allow ”- who decides to put a comma in a suitable one, with developers’s point of view, the place if the new product violates a number of requirements of the law, and indeed it looks somehow ... unsafe?

Somersaults over water

Frank Zapata became the pioneer of a new field of extreme sports in 2005, when the startup Zapata Industries founded by him introduced the flying platform Flyboard. The device raises the pilot to a height of 16 m under the pressure of a jet of water, which a powerful pump pumps through a thick pipe, connected to the flyboard from the jet ski. And while beach lovers are cautiously mastering an unusual form of entertainment, athletes are already carrying out the most difficult acrobatic stunts on it, and in 2016 they held the first world championship among Flyboard pilots.


Flyboard air exp

Weight 25.1 kg Payload 102 kg Maximum speed 150 km / h Ceiling height 1524 m Fuel tank capacity 23.3 L Flight duration 10 min.

Meanwhile, Zapata himself and his engineers made another evolutionary leap and finally abandoned the “leash”: Flyboard Air flyboards are equipped with four 250-horsepower jet engines that feed on kerosene fuel from a tank located in the backpack behind the pilot. No pipes, no wires - only the control panel in hand, only the careful tilts of the flying platform, only the sky, and the wind, and the roar of the engines.

Jet engines - proprietary Zapata Industries, created on the basis of model JetCat, and designers are particularly proud of it: “Try to design an engine that with such a small weight (about 3 kg) produces more than 30 kg of traction and does not consume tens of liters of fuel per minute, - the chief engineer of the company Christian Alibar told us. - I am really proud of this development, especially the latest version of Flyboard Air EXP. How many problems had to be resolved, especially with the balancing and control system, not to list. Most of all the trouble was caused by the algorithm that compensates for the wind, weight redistribution due to the movements of the pilot, fuel consumption, etc. But the result was something that has no analogues. ”

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Frankie Zapata “I spread my arms because it turned out to be more convenient to control the movement. And it felt like my wings were open, and there was nothing under my feet ... It is impossible to describe. ”

Leap to the future

“Officially, I will deny everything, ” Christian continues, “but in general, of course, we were inspired by Marty McFly and his flying skateboard from the second part of Back to the Future.” Prospects for mass use, as in the cinema, were taken into account by the developers from the very beginning. They tried to create a flyboard that ordinary people can manage, not necessarily such experts from aerial acrobatics as Frankie Zapata, who personally experienced Flyboard Air in flight in the spring of 2016. “Frankie’s striking sense of balance saved us a lot of nerves, but for ordinary people we tried to create a balancing system, if not perfect, then close to perfect, ” says Alibar.

The uneven operation of jet engines is compensated by a system of gyroscopes operating on independent batteries. In addition, the platform is supported by a pair of additional propeller motors with very low inertia. Flyboard Air turns out to be stable and easy to manage: you can get used to the “board” in a couple of hours, although the standard course of pre-flight preparation takes one day.

“Four jet engines, a perfect stabilization system with high redundancy ... I wanted Flyboard Air to give people complete freedom and the ability to fly as if the platform were a natural extension of their own body, ” says Frankie Zapata. - Our flyboard and our technologies will become pioneers among individual aircraft of the future. This is just a small sample of what is expected, and we are pleased to have gained recognition as pioneers in this area. "

Step to heaven

We, born to walk, are not too easily given the development of active movement through the air. No wonder no Flyboard Air pilots have so far risen to the maximum estimated flight altitude (more than 3 km). Even the most experienced Zapata trials of flyboard made a strong impression. “I was very nervous before the first flight, although as soon as I took off, doubts disappeared. It was an indescribable delight, ”says the pilot. Tests in April 2016 made the new product world-famous, and almost 8 million YouTube users watched the video. Perhaps we are on the verge of another sport, and then a vehicle.

It remains only to demonstrate the reliability and safety of flyboard and achieve free flight over France and other countries of the world. In the meantime, developers are encouraged to approach the new product with caution. “No matter how perfect Flyboard Air is, it’s worth remembering that in fact you fly at a speed of 100 km / h, and even with 20 liters of aviation fuel behind you. It's pretty risky, admits Christian Alibar. - Frankie believes that the risk is justified. I also think so, but how much is acceptable for you - decide for yourself. "

Following the example of Sikorsky

Zapata Industries' area of ​​interest is not limited to flyboards. The company's engineers have developed and are selling the Runabout jet ski not without success - according to the creators, the lightest (200 kg) and fastest (up to 135 km / h) in the world.

But truly futuristic projects are yet to come: the company's developments include the Jet Bike hoverbike, which is created for the needs of the military, rescuers and doctors, as well as Air Stretcher drones for delivering goods, transporting patients and helping people working in remote and inaccessible areas. “Here we are somewhat repeating the history of Sikorsky. Have you seen the newsreel of the first tests of his helicopter? It looks like some kind of creepy attraction, ”says Christian Alibar. “But after a couple of years, the helicopters began to transport cargo, save lives ... And so our solutions worked out in Flyboard Air will definitely go to a new level.”

Time for innovation

The Flyboard Air project was supported by Breitling - and this is far from the only evidence of the desire of the world-renowned manufacturer of Swiss watches and chronographs to continuous technological innovation. Last year, Breitling introduced its debut model, made from heavy-duty and ultra-light patented material, Breitlight.

It is a high-tech polymer reinforced with carbon fiber. The recipe for it is kept secret, but it uses an ordinary, widely produced carbon fiber mixed with a “secret” liquid under high pressure and in a strictly defined proportion. Jean-Paul Girardin, vice president of Breitling, spoke about the novelty at Baselworld's Popular Mechanics exhibition.

- Initially, we did not plan to use the brightlight for the manufacture of watch cases, but when it became clear that it is 3.5 times lighter than titanium, 5.8 times lighter than steel and significantly stronger than them, our engineers developed a technology for producing cases from it for chronometers. The Avenger Hurricane watch with a brighter light case debuted a year ago, and this year we introduced the new limited edition Avenger Hurricane Military. The watch is equipped with our proprietary movement with a chronograph and time display in a 24-hour format. Pick them up - how do you feel?

- The first impression, of course, is amazing ease. And to the touch the surface of the case is very unusual ...

- Yes, both externally and to the touch, the material is a bit like marble. It has an original texture, which, in fact, makes every watch from the brightlight unique. Pay attention to the fact that the material is warm and comfortable felt on the wrist. The weight of even a very impressive watch is only 54 g. Finally, the brightlight is hypoallergenic material.

- What other technological achievements of recent years can you note?

- First of all, of course, our first branded split-chronograph Navitimer Rattrapante, which allows you to measure the duration of two processes occurring simultaneously. The automatic caliber B03 became, one might say, the first mass split-chronograph. It is quite thin, only 1.2 mm larger than the standard B01 chronograph. We simplified the split module, reducing the number of parts to just 28 pieces, increasing its reliability. By simplifying the mechanism, we were able to please our customers with a more affordable price.

- Why was the novelty introduced only recently?

- We were not in a hurry to present it: it was necessary to check everything in the most thorough manner. Therefore, the launch of this model took place only four years later - later mechanisms B04, B05 and B06. Our Breitling Chronometrie manufactory has gained full power: now we are almost completely independent of third-party suppliers and even signed an agreement with Rolex that we will supply B01 chronographs for its “younger” brand Tudor. This is a mutually beneficial historical collaboration of two watch houses. At any time, we can double the output, and if more mechanisms are needed, nothing prevents us from building another building.

The article “Full Fly” was published in the journal Popular Mechanics (No. 7, July 2017). I wonder how a nuclear reactor works and can robots build a house?

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