Flyboard Air soars over Paris during France’s national day celebrations

Inventor Franky Zapata pulled some cool moves on his jet-powered flyboard on Sunday, dazzling crowds attending France’s Bastille Day celebrations.

Offering a glimpse of how the nation’s military might one day utilize the remarkable technology, the Frenchman toted a rifle as he piloted his Flyboard Air over the Champs-Élysées in Paris.

News footage (above) showed French president Emmanuel Macron nodding approvingly at the stunt, though with the country’s Alpha Jets roaring in fast and low to perform a flypast, Zapata was careful to watch his altitude.

The Flyboard Air first took to the skies in 2016 and was so impressive that some early observers believed that videos showing the device in action were fake. But this thing is definitely for real.

Powered by five small turbine engines, the machine can reach speeds of up to 118 mph (190 kph) and stay in the air for up to 10 minutes at a time. The Flyboard Air has so far climbed to a height of 150 meters, though it’s capable of flying much higher. The rider uses a handheld throttle to control the machine, while a head-up display offers data on engine status, fuel levels, altitude, and speed. The machine’s versatility and ability to fly in poor weather, and also at night, has caught the attention of the military in both France and the U.S., and no doubt others as well.

Speaking on French radio about how the nation might one day use the flyboard for its military, Florence Parly, France’s armed forces minister, said that the device “can allow tests for different kinds of uses, for example as a flying logistical platform or, indeed, as an assault platform.”

Zapata revealed several years ago that he’s also been talking to the U.S. Army about how it might incorporate the technology into its operations, though the classified nature of such discussions means it’s not clear how much progress, if any, has been made on that front.

Besides military uses, Zapata’s website also describes how the Flyboard Air could be used by first responders when a location is difficult to reach by more conventional means, and also for infrastructure inspection and, of course, entertainment.

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