We want hoverboards so bad. The promise of sweet, skateboard-style flying machines from the 1989 film "Back to the Future: Part II" continues to haunt our tech dreams.
We're not talking about those wheeled poseurs that never leave the ground, but the ones that actually take flight. So far, we've received working hoverboards that require special surfaces (like the Hendo), a DIY hoverboard powered by leaf blowers and the large, slow-ish ArcaBoard. There's also the quadcopter-like contraption invented by a Canadian who set a record for the longest hoverboard flight. The dream is alive, but it has not been fully realized.
Enter the Flyboard Air from Zapata Racing, a team of professional personal-watercraft racers. Zapata Racing posted a video on Saturday showing a test flight of what it claims is a new kind of hoverboard-style craft.
Franky Zapata, founder of Zapata Racing, didn't just appear in a DeLorean from out of nowhere. His original Flyboard debuted in 2011. It uses a long hose and hydrojet to lift a rider out of the water. A secondary set of handheld jets provide the steering. Zapata clearly wasn't content with water-powered hovering. He wanted to cut the liquid cord with the invention of the Flyboard Air.
The video is a high-energy affair with a rocking soundtrack. It shows Zapata, suited up and wearing a helmet, hovering through the air over a lake on a flying platform just barely wider than his shoulders. The Flyboard Air is equipped with legs that look like they belong on a UFO.
The company is keeping quiet on details of the device, but claims it can fly as high as 10,000 feet, has a top speed of 93.2 mph (150 km/h) and can fly for up to 10 minutes. It may use a turbine engine with a fuel line leading from a backpack down to the Flyboard. It is still in prototype phase and is not expected to be available this year.
Zapata Racing did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
We've survived some hoverboard fakes in the past, notably with a 2014 Funny or Die hoax. Commentators on Zapata Racing's Facebook page are expressing a fair amount of skepticism about the video, with some accusing the group of using helicopters or cranes and wires to achieve the flight footage.
Until we get more evidence and information on the Flyboard Air, it should be approached with a little bit of apprehension and a little bit of excitement. It certainly looks like fun. If real, it could get us one step closer to reenacting the famous Marty McFly hoverboard chase scene in real life.