The flying man, Franky Zapata is an inventor of jet-powered Flyboard and CEO of Zapata Racing based in Le Rove, France. Zapata is best known for his flying demonstration during Bastille Day military Parade above crowds on Champs-Élysées in Paris. Also as the first person to cross the English Channel on a hoverboard.
“The future is looking towards flying machines, whether manned or unmanned. That is the future.”
Please tell me your background. What was your childhood like?
(Franky Zapata) I grew up in the same village where I live today, the village of Le Rove near Marseille. I had an incredibly happy childhood, my parents always made sure that I wasn’t in need of anything.
How did you come up with the idea of a Flyboard that makes you climb out of the water?
(FZ) I spent 15 years of my life as a professional Jet Ski pilot. Later, I created my own brand of Jet Ski. As I have had this passion for flying since my early childhood. I had the idea to merge my 2 passions by inventing the water Flyboard.
And then what inspires you to develop and upgrade Flyboard to Flyboard Air. From Water to Air?
(FZ) From the day I tried the Flyboard I quickly realised that it was possible to fly and move like a superhero. I immediately had the desire and the idea to take off the hose and be able to move around the planet. It took me 4 years to develop this project.
“I keep an unforgettable memory of the 45 full seconds of my flight on Champs-Élysées next to the President of the French Republic.”
Finishing Bastille Day military parade (2019) with Flyboard Air was groundbreaking. What was the most challenging and what were the most unforgettable moments?
(FZ) In the end, the biggest challenge was to participate at the Bastille Day military parade because nothing was sure until the last moment. In terms of the technical challenge, it was a routine flight, I didn’t do anything extraordinary. On the other hand, I keep an unforgettable memory of the 45 full seconds of my flight on Champs-Élysées next to the President of the French Republic, it was just something exceptional.
Military Technology has always been the most advanced out there. The French Defence Ministry pledged $1.5M to Zapata (your company) to develop the devices for the future of the defence system. We are now experiencing drone, robotic surveillance being used. How do you see the future of military devices and defence systems?
(FZ) We’ve been awarded a 1.3-million-euro grant for the development of our turbo engines. At the moment we are in the early stages of discussions for the use of these machines in the military field. In parallel, we are developing turboprop flying platforms that reach much higher speeds and have the capacity to lift much heavier loads over a longer period of time. The future is looking towards flying machines, whether manned or unmanned. That is the future. These machines are free of many of the constraints that helicopters, and airplanes have today. I really see all this as the future in the military as well as in the civilian field.
Some experts are speculating that the future of war will be autonomous, unmanned. What is your view on this?
(FZ) I am quite mixed on this subject. I think that there will be a big part of the war that will be played only on the “unmanned” but human intervention will still be present.
“I am very focused on the future of human mobility and I’m convinced that tomorrow’s mobility will take place in the air.”