Skip to main content

Attempt to pilot a flyboard across the English Channel ends in the water

Live | ‘Flyboard’ creator Franky Zapata tried to cross the English Channel

Despite a valiant effort, Franky Zapata has failed in his attempt to cross the English Channel on his jet-powered flyboard. The 40-year-old French inventor made it halfway across the stretch of water but tumbled into the sea as he tried to land on a boat to refuel.

Zapata gained international attention just over a week ago when he made a spectacular flight on his Flyboard Air at the Bastille Day celebrations in Paris, France.

Buoyed by the experience, the French inventor set himself the target of crossing the Channel at its narrowest point — a distance of about 20 miles (32 km) — on his flying machine.

Taking off from a beach in northern France on Thursday morning local time with the Flyboard Air attached to his feet, Zapata lifted slowly from a launch platform before hurtling toward England at speeds of more than 100 mph (160 kph), traveling at an altitude of no higher than 20 meters (about 65 feet).

The trip was expected to take 20 minutes with one stop to refuel on a boat halfway across. And that’s when it all went wrong.

Speaking at a press conference later, Zapata said the boat turned out to be too small and the sea too choppy to make a stable landing. The conditions caused him to topple into the water, bringing his attempt to become the first person to cross the Channel on a flyboard to a soaking wet end.

He was quickly plucked from the sea, together with his Flyboard Air, which he said suffered minimal damage in the incident.

Franky Zapata stands on his jet-powered flyboard as he takes off from Sangatte, northern France, attempting to fly across the the English Channel. Denis Charlet/AFP/Getty Images

Zapata described Thursday’s outing as “like flying in a dream,” adding, “It was an amazing sensation, not scary at all.”

Unfazed by the impromptu dunking, the Frenchman said he wanted to try the feat again, possibly “in a matter of days.”

The Flyboard Air is powered by five small turbine engines running on kerosene stored in the pilot’s backpack. The compact machine can reach speeds of up to 118 mph (190 kph) and stay in the air for around 10 minutes at a time.

Zapata has flown it to a height of 150 meters, though it can go much higher if necessary. The pilot uses a handheld throttle to control the flyboard, while a head-up display offers data on engine status, fuel levels, altitude, and speed.

Thursday’s effort came just a few days after Australian David Mayman donned his own jetpack for a successful flight around Australia’s Sydney Harbor.

Editors' Recommendations

Trevor Mogg
Contributing Editor
Not so many moons ago, Trevor moved from one tea-loving island nation that drives on the left (Britain) to another (Japan)…
Digital Trends’ Top Tech of CES 2023 Awards
Best of CES 2023 Awards Our Top Tech from the Show Feature

Let there be no doubt: CES isn’t just alive in 2023; it’s thriving. Take one glance at the taxi gridlock outside the Las Vegas Convention Center and it’s evident that two quiet COVID years didn’t kill the world’s desire for an overcrowded in-person tech extravaganza -- they just built up a ravenous demand.

From VR to AI, eVTOLs and QD-OLED, the acronyms were flying and fresh technologies populated every corner of the show floor, and even the parking lot. So naturally, we poked, prodded, and tried on everything we could. They weren’t all revolutionary. But they didn’t have to be. We’ve watched enough waves of “game-changing” technologies that never quite arrive to know that sometimes it’s the little tweaks that really count.

Read more
Digital Trends’ Tech For Change CES 2023 Awards
Digital Trends CES 2023 Tech For Change Award Winners Feature

CES is more than just a neon-drenched show-and-tell session for the world’s biggest tech manufacturers. More and more, it’s also a place where companies showcase innovations that could truly make the world a better place — and at CES 2023, this type of tech was on full display. We saw everything from accessibility-minded PS5 controllers to pedal-powered smart desks. But of all the amazing innovations on display this year, these three impressed us the most:

Samsung's Relumino Mode
Across the globe, roughly 300 million people suffer from moderate to severe vision loss, and generally speaking, most TVs don’t take that into account. So in an effort to make television more accessible and enjoyable for those millions of people suffering from impaired vision, Samsung is adding a new picture mode to many of its new TVs.
[CES 2023] Relumino Mode: Innovation for every need | Samsung
Relumino Mode, as it’s called, works by adding a bunch of different visual filters to the picture simultaneously. Outlines of people and objects on screen are highlighted, the contrast and brightness of the overall picture are cranked up, and extra sharpness is applied to everything. The resulting video would likely look strange to people with normal vision, but for folks with low vision, it should look clearer and closer to "normal" than it otherwise would.
Excitingly, since Relumino Mode is ultimately just a clever software trick, this technology could theoretically be pushed out via a software update and installed on millions of existing Samsung TVs -- not just new and recently purchased ones.

Read more
AI turned Breaking Bad into an anime — and it’s terrifying
Split image of Breaking Bad anime characters.

These days, it seems like there's nothing AI programs can't do. Thanks to advancements in artificial intelligence, deepfakes have done digital "face-offs" with Hollywood celebrities in films and TV shows, VFX artists can de-age actors almost instantly, and ChatGPT has learned how to write big-budget screenplays in the blink of an eye. Pretty soon, AI will probably decide who wins at the Oscars.

Within the past year, AI has also been used to generate beautiful works of art in seconds, creating a viral new trend and causing a boon for fan artists everywhere. TikTok user @cyborgism recently broke the internet by posting a clip featuring many AI-generated pictures of Breaking Bad. The theme here is that the characters are depicted as anime characters straight out of the 1980s, and the result is concerning to say the least. Depending on your viewpoint, Breaking Bad AI (my unofficial name for it) shows how technology can either threaten the integrity of original works of art or nurture artistic expression.
What if AI created Breaking Bad as a 1980s anime?
Playing over Metro Boomin's rap remix of the famous "I am the one who knocks" monologue, the video features images of the cast that range from shockingly realistic to full-on exaggerated. The clip currently has over 65,000 likes on TikTok alone, and many other users have shared their thoughts on the art. One user wrote, "Regardless of the repercussions on the entertainment industry, I can't wait for AI to be advanced enough to animate the whole show like this."

Read more