When we last saw Franky Zapata back in May, he was spinning uncontrollably down into the water from a serious height in a terrifying jetboard crash. But the flying Frenchman is back to launch a new, high-speed personal aircraft called the JetRacer.
Zapata has already built a resume most would be proud of. A former jet ski world champion, he went on to invent the Flyboard, a jet ski attachment that re-routes its water jets to let users rise out of the water like the love-child of Aquaman and Iron Man. Before long, he'd ditched the jet ski altogether, and moved to jet turbines to create the Flyboard Air, which allowed him to zoom around like the Green Goblin and set all sorts of records, on nothing more than a backpack full of kerosene fuel. He also built an "Ezfly" version with handles, a Segway of the skies for the rest of us, for whom no quantity of brown undies would ever suffice.
The latest vehicle in the Zapata stable builds on this small-turbine technology base but takes things in a new direction. The JetRacer is effectively a carbon-fiber bucket seat that flies on the thrust from 10 of the same small jets that power the Flyboards.
In some senses, it's a fair bit like the small manned multicopter drones that are beginning to pop up here and there – take the Jetson One, for example. The parallels are there in terms of the basic airframe, distributed, redundant propulsion, lots of automation, and a drone-style tilt-to-fly layout, complete with a super-simple and highly automated control system.