A hoverboard successfully carried someone 21 miles—but it had to refuel halfway

All systems go, if you don’t mind making a pitstop.
All systems go, if you don’t mind making a pitstop.
Image: Reuters/Pascal Rossignol
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Personal hoverboards appear to be finally taking off.

On Aug. 4, Franky Zapata, an inventor from France, used his own jet-powered hoverboard to carry him about 21 miles across the English Channel.

Zapata invented his hoverboard three years ago. His first successful flight, however, didn’t take place until last month. During France’s Bastille Day celebrations, he flew one of his prototypes above French troops while carrying a fake gun (despite the fact that his deal to sell the technology to a French military contractor fell through). During that flight, Zapata claimed to reach speeds of more than 100 mph.

Today’s flight took just 20 minutes. Zapata left shortly after 6:15am local time and had three helicopters trailing in case of emergency. Fortunately, there were none. “For the last five to six kilometers I just really enjoyed it,” he told Reuters.

Despite his successful trip, it will be a while before Zapata’s hoverboard is ready for widespread use. For starters, it can’t hold much fuel. In his flight across the channel, Zapata had to refuel after only about 10 minutes. He did so by landing on a boat. The same refueling issue thwarted Zapata’s first attempt to cross the channel in late July after the Bastille Day celebrations, when he failed to stick the landing on such a small vessel.

Zapata’s hoverboards aren’t for sale at the moment—and if they were, they’d likely cost upwards of $250,000, the amount he said it takes to manufacture them. Even after the high cost, though, users would have to go through a hundred hours of training to use the device, practicing with a water-based jetpack, according to his his website.

But these are kinks that can presumably be worked out with a little more R&D. The French army seems to believe in him. It gave Zapata about $1.5 million to further develop his hoverboard in late 2018. Perhaps the Bastille Day showcase and today’s triumph will be enough to encourage more funders to invest in his work. He may need it, too—he’s also working on building a flying car, according to Reuters.