French commandos will fly alone on a ‘board with engines’
PARIS, ($1=0.89 Euros) – For more than five years, Zapata Industries, a company founded by Frankie Zapata, a former world jet-ski champion, has promoted Flyboard Air in the military. It is a type of surfboard that, equipped with six engines [four of which develop 250 horsepower], makes it possible to fly at an altitude of 10,000 feet, thanks to an algorithm that constantly regulates the inclination of the engines and the speed of the side turbines.
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After approaching US control, Zapata Industries received support from the Department of the Armed Forces in 2018 through the Defense Innovation Agency [AID]. A budget of 1.3m euros has been allocated for it to improve its Flyboard Air and adapt it to the constraints of military operations. As such, it received support from Poly-shape and the National Office for Aerospace Research [ONERA].
The potential offered by Flyboard Air interested the Special Operations Command [COS] very early on. Such a device would make it possible, for example, to carry out reconnaissance, to carry out penetration/exfiltration missions, to serve as a flying logistics platform, to reduce patrol intervention time, or even to be used as an assault machine.
However, even if it was promising [especially after crossing the English Channel by Frankie Zapata], Flyboard Air could not be used for military purposes. Why? Lack of discretion and its fuel consumption [200 liters of kerosene per 100 km]. Under these conditions, it is difficult to imagine placing a commando on a flying surfboard with 40 liters of fuel in a backpack.
Zapata Industries has since made the requested changes. This was indeed announced by the Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parley at the Defense Innovation Forum in 2021 [FID].
“The first FID was an opportunity to highlight a project that might look crazy, Frankie Zapata’s Flyboard. If AID is interested in this project, it’s because other nations are experimenting with this new form of ‘hypermobility’ and because our special forces could find applications in it in the future,” Ms. Parley first recalled.
In any case, according to the minister, the work done over the last three years has made it possible “to improve the acoustic discretion, the autonomy of the Flyboard and to optimize the mass of its engine”. Ms. Parley added: “Soon the special forces will experiment with an individual, manned flying platform derived from Flyboard-R, leaving the pilot free of his legs and arms. I’m waiting to see that.” And she’s not the only one.
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