Frankie Zapata for The Verge: “Turbojet fuel will help melt reinforced concrete skepticism”

Original author: Sean O'Kane
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(Analyzing the marketing articles of the Frenchman Frankie Zapata. There is dust in the eyes and a lot of useful information.)

April 15, 201 6


This week one of the most discussed things is a strange video of a person who seems to have a real hoverboard equipped with a jet engine. The video was published by Zapata Racing, which released water versions of these aircraft for several years. The difference is that they have always been tied to some kind of personal watercraft. This new “Flyboard Air”, as CEO Frankie Zapata calls it, is something completely different.

On Monday, the video spread at the speed of light and divided the Internet into two camps. People thought that this was either the coolest thing ever invented, or that it was one big lie. Even optimistic people like me were skeptical. Maybe we all still feel a little deceived by Tony Hawke and FunnyorDie, or maybe we were just careful - in the end, the video was suspiciously edited, there were very few details and it looked kind of fake.

During the week, more videos appeared and it turned out that this thing was more than real. This morning, however, Frankie Zapata himself called me to talk a little about Flyboard Air, how it works, and what he wants to do with it.

The following is an interview with Sean O'Kane from The Verge.

Sean O'Kane: So it consists of three parts, right? Platform, fuel tank and remote?

Frankie Zapata: Yes, the thing that is on my back looks like Camelbak, but it is full of kerosene. Jet A1.

What controls are on the remote control?

It is just a device controlling four turboprop engines on the platform. To stabilize two more sides.

When did this project start at all?

We worked on it for four years. We tried to come up with something similar, using the original version of the Flyboard and simply pushing the air inside the hose. After that, it took us two years to create large turbo-jets, and create algorithms to stabilize Flyboard.

Six engines, a smart platform and a full kerosene satchel

When did you first fly?

The first working flight? Just a month ago. And then, when we got ready to fly again, we shot a video and uploaded it to YouTube. So this device is really new. Brand new.

Can you tell me more about how it works? How many engines are there?

Inside there are four engines, and power - 250 horsepower. This is about 1,000 horsepower in total.

How do you keep your balance? Is there anything that helps you, besides the fact that you are just trying to align yourself?

There is a system inside the platform that helps stabilize the car. It is very difficult to stabilize, so yes, it's not just my ability to balance. For example, we use the same electronics that you use on the drone to stabilize it. The problem is to create algorithms, the right algorithms to combine intelligence in the platform and in your brain. Therefore, we spent about four months on this work.

What are these algorithms that help in stabilization, is it just a load level?

Not. We adjust the maximum speed of small turbines, as well as the slope of the turbine reactors themselves. So, we have almost six systems working together, plus my brain and legs.


So will this actually change the angle of these turbines?

Yes, the device changes the angle of the turbines, it changes the angle of the jet nozzle, we also adjust the power for each engine and adjust the thrust of the small side turbines.

Can anyone ride this without any experience with the Flyboard?

Oh no. You can’t ride it before you have at least 50 or 100 hours of experience with the original water version of the Flyboard. In addition, if you want to try, you must have seven lives like a cat. [Laughs]

Did you test it on water as a precaution?

Yes, we used water for safety. Honestly, the entire system should be able to land if you have only one turbofan. So I can stabilize it, even if I lost one engine, and we had enough traction to go down and land. If one turbo-reactor fails, this is normal, because we have four turbo-reactors, and we can fly with three. And inside the console, we have three different Wi-Fi channels, plus we have three sensors. Only three each and they are interrelated, so if one of them fails, they also know which one of them broke, do you understand? That is why we decided to fly several months above the water, but we are almost ready to fly above the ground in the next few months.

It is impossible to learn how to fly it until you have 50-100 hours of experience on a water flyboard

What happens if you find yourself in the water?

Nothing serious, for me there is no danger, because I fell into the water three days ago, honestly. [Laughs] Three days ago I crashed into the water, because we tried - you know, we are going to make the farthest trip on a hoverboard. The last trip was 275 meters, and we will overcome this record, flying 10 times more. We will fly about 2 miles. We will overcome 2 miles using the Flyboard Air at speeds from 60 to 80 km / h. And we trained for this, and the last time we trained when the wind was 80km / h. And then we did not understand that when we have wind, we spend more batteries for the stabilization system. So, just five seconds before I landed on the platform, the battery was discharged. And the device began to move like a torpedo, for example, as if you had lost a small rotor of a helicopter. I began to turn, like [Frankie makes the sound "Shhshuuu!"], and I had no choice but to turn off the engine before I landed in the water. I broke all the electronics on the platform, so it will cost me money, but otherwise everything is fine.

Is this the only version available today?

We only have one device, because it works for four weeks. So, now we are ready to build another one, just for the media, because, frankly, we did not know that the media would be so excited about the project. At first, we just did it to show people that we can do it, and just to demonstrate our patience and what we have achieved. But we did not understand that everyone wants to see Flyboard Air for real, so now it’s not just for us.

At the same time, we completed research and development on a new project that will use the same type of control and technology of the same type for stabilization, but for the general public it will be much easier, and also, of course, for the army or the security sectors, therefore we have something for both. We can use this technology to possibly change the way people travel, hopefully.

The next device will be "something that everyone can ride"

What would be the biggest differences between this version and the new one?

It would be something that everyone could ride, something easier, I can't talk a lot about it, because the patents have not been filed yet, but it will be something everyone can ride on. At the moment, Flyboard Air is something similar, but if you want to ride it, you need to spend 100 hours on the water version of the Flyboard, plus you need another 20 hours to learn how to use it, and you can still make a mistake and fall. Thus, the purpose of the new model is to have something extremely small, extremely stable and something that you can take to go and buy yourself some bread in the morning.

So what's the plan for the current version?

Fair? I dont know. [Laughs] You know, when you decide to have a baby, you decide to have a baby, because you want it. You do not decide to have a child, because he will become a surgeon or a lawyer. For us, it was the same when we decided to create something, we create it, and after that we just watch how the project can move forward
Today we know that people are really interested in this. Today, this is a dream for me, because I really realized that I dream of flying. And we get attention from crazy companies, maybe even later they will want to produce our device. A week ago, I did it just for myself, you know? Today, for sure, we will be able to use this technology to help the new project. But if everyone wants it, if everyone needs Flyboard Air, we have to work with the government, we have to work with responsibility, we have to work on a thousand things. But why not?

I was skeptical when I first saw it because of the way the video was edited, and because this is just an incredible thing in itself. What was your reaction to people calling your invention “fake”?

I said that we reached our goal. [Laughs] Because this is exactly what we tried to do. We covered all the mechanical aspects. The plan, when we decided to create the Flyboard Air, was crazy, because we wanted to do something extremely small, something like a skateboard, and not a helicopter. It would be easy to build something like a 2-meter structure and skillfully fly on it, it would be easy to do. But our goal was to make something so small that people thought it was a fake, or it was just an animation. And so, when people said it, to be honest, we were glad. We have reached our goal. Because when people see it with their own eyes, they go crazy. That's cool.

"My goal is to ride the clouds."

Zapata Racing is already teasing with promises of more videos, what will you release?

We plan to release the footage every month. Then in 16 days we will beat the world record when we cross 3 miles on the French coast from one city to another city, and land in the middle of the city in front of the public. And after that we have ambitious plans. You will not believe. [Laughs] We will fly in the clouds. My goal is to ride the clouds. It's like powder snowboarding, but I want to do it in the cloud. This is my dream, and I will do my best to fulfill it.

Is there a security system for these more crazy flights, like a parachute or something else?

Yes, before we climb into the sky, we will use a parachute. But over the water I have already fallen many times at a speed of 85-90 km / h, when I conducted the tests. Therefore, I know that you can fall at about that speed without particularly serious injuries. The car is able to move at a speed of 90 to 100 miles per hour, but in my tests with my features I did not overcome the mark of more than 55 miles per hour. This is the maximum speed I reached three days ago. I think that by the end of the summer I will be able to reach 80 miles per hour.

And now in Russia:

By the way, the company RUVDS became interested in jetpack and helps storm the clouds.

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