It doesn’t take an extensive, Socratic debate to get the bottom of this quandary: If it has two wheels and doesn’t actually hover, is it a hoverboard? The answer is no — it’s simply a self-balancing electric scooter, one that’s nowhere near as cool as the device Marty McFly first tantalized us with nearly two decades ago. After all of the brouhaha and build up of the Great Hovebroard Sham of 2015 (as history will surely remember it), humanity was left with a bevy of ACL injuries, fires, tragic Vine compilations, and little else. As a species, we’ve sent probes into space and detected the Higgs boson, yet the personal hoverboard has somehow eluded us… until now.
Below are five hoverboards that, well, actually hover above the ground. Just don’t expect to get your hands on any of them in the near future — crowdfunding a $10,000 venture on Kickstarter isn’t exactly easy, after all.
Aesthetically speaking, the ArcaBoard certainly isn’t very impressive. The device is nearly indistinguishable from other run-of-the-mill boxes, yet, as the saying goes, “looks can be deceiving.” The ArcaBoard team spent thousands of hours creating and prototyping different structures, only to settle on a simple design that excels in terms of durability, stability, and security. That design — the shape of cutting-edge aerodynamics and avionics — is a rectangular prism. The ArcaBoard uses a total of 36 high-power, electric fans to hover above the earth, each of which is built directly into the frame. Last year, the ArcaBoard team launched a Kickstarter to fund the project, offering backers their very own ArcaBoards for a cool $10,000. Not surprisingly, the campaign was soon cancelled, after receiving a mere $1,148 of its $250,000 goal.
Nonetheless, Arcaboard is still allegedly selling the hoverboard on its website for $14,900. According to the company’s CEO, ArcaBoard was created “so that you could achieve your dreams, dreams you never thought possible.” Well, if your dream is to utilize a series of fans to crudely achieve rudimentary flight without the ability to steer, then your dreams are within reach, my friend. Some even laughed at the first automobiles. Hold your jeers, ladies and gentlemen, you don’t want to be on the wrong side of history.
Canadian inventor Catalin Alexandre Duru previously set the world record for the farthest hoverboard flight, and he did so using the Omni Hoverboard. He’s since been dethroned by the folks at Zapata Racing, and while the age-old saying “if you’re not first, you’re last” may hold true for many aspects of one’s life, the silver medal is still pretty solid when it comes to cutting-edge personal avionics. This wasn’t some short Kitty Hawk voyage either, Duru and his Omni Hoverboard traveled more than 905 feet, more than quintupling the previous record. The Omni Hoverboard is one of the few functional hoverboards that uses actual propeller-based technology, too. Imagine being strapped into a personal drone with the controls at your fingertips… and your neighbors thought you were annoying when you got your hands on that DJI Phantom 4!
Lexus unveiled the Slide in June of 2015, as part of the company’s “Amazing in Motion” marketing campaign. The board uses magnetic levitation — the same technology incorporated into many high-speed trains — to successfully hover. The internal superconductors embedded in the board are cooled with liquid nitrogen to -197 degrees Fahrenheit, which creates a magnetic field between the superconductors and a network of ground-mounted magnets.
The demo video was all filmed in a specially designed “hoverpark” in Barcelona, Spain. Lexus installed more than 65o feet of magnetic track in the park to allow the hoverboard to pull of its gravity-defying stunt. In the words of Doc Brown: “Roads? Where we’re going we don’t need roads.” With the Lexus Slide, you may not need “roads” per se; however, you may need an absurdly expensive hoverpark designed conspicuously by a luxury car company for the promotional purposes of a hoverboard they do not plan to put on the market.
The Hendo Hover is powered via four downward-facing electromagnets. These engines create a magnetic field which essentially pushes against itself to levitate. There is, however, a pretty big caveat. The Hendo Hover can only function (hover) when situated above a non-ferromagnetic conductor surface or — in layman’s terms — a metal sheet that doesn’t contain iron or steel. Meaning, yes, you can hover, albeit in a very, specific setting. In December of 2014, the Hendo Hover successfully raised $510,591 with 3,169 backers via its Kickstarter page. The first hoverboards shipped to backers in August of 2015, and since then, the company has been tinkering with the directional thrust capacity of its hover engines. This would allow riders to steer their Hendo boards instead of just floating around frictionlessly without any kind of control.
The Flyboard Air is the second iteration of the Flyboard, a predecessor to Frank Zapata’s original model. Although the original Flyboard propulsion system utilized streams of high pressure water siphoned from a body of water directly below the rider, the latest model ditches the system and the bulky hose in favor a more versatile, air-based propulsion system. With the original Flyboard, riders needed to be cognizant of how high they were “hovering” at any given time in order to ensure the hose was submerged deep enough to produce a continuous supply of water, thus limiting riders to a max height of 30 feet. Now, without the hose, riders are able to soar as high as 10,000 feet.
The Flyboard Air recently set a new Guinness World Record for “farthest hoverboard flight,” covering a distance of more than 7,388 feet and shattering the previous record of 905 feet. Zapata Racing, Frank Zapata’s company, claims that the Flyboard Air is designed to reach a max speed of 90 miles per hour, with enough power for 10 minutes of flight time. This model is still in the preliminary stages of testing, though, we look forward to seeing the forthcoming tweaks.