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 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 Flyboard that makes you climbing 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 inspire 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 was 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 been always the most advanced out there. French Defence Ministry pledged $1.5M to Zapata (your company) to develop the devices for the future of 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 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.”
You’ve mentioned that crossing English Channel had been intended to commemorate the 110th anniversary of first flight between continental Europe and Britain made by the French pilot Louis Blériot. How was your experience when you finally succeed to cross the channel? (FZ) I was immensely proud to have succeeded in this challenge. It was very emotional! As big aviation passionate and having been lulled by all the exploits of aviation pioneers, succeeding in my own challenges was a great satisfaction for me that I was able to share with my team.
What interests you the most these days? (FZ) Today I am really focused on tomorrow’s transportation, everything related to flying cars, flying cabs et cetera. I am really interested in the future of transportation.I am very focused on the future of human mobility, of course with flying machines. I’m not necessarily stuck on anything ground-based because I’m convinced that tomorrow’s mobility will take place in the air.
Have you already decided where to fly next?
(FZ) I have a lot of next challenges in mind that I would not hesitate to share with you!