Aircraft

Zapata Ezfly: The jet-powered aerial Segway anyone can fly

Zapata Ezfly: The jet-powered ...
The Zapata Ezfly is a jet-powered flying Segway that it seems almost anyone can fly
The Zapata Ezfly is a jet-powered flying Segway that it seems almost anyone can fly
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The pilot's view of the Zapata Ezfly
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The pilot's view of the Zapata Ezfly
Zapata Ezfly: it's not just Franky flying these things anymore
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Zapata Ezfly: it's not just Franky flying these things anymore
The Zapata Ezfly is a jet-powered flying Segway that it seems almost anyone can fly
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The Zapata Ezfly is a jet-powered flying Segway that it seems almost anyone can fly
Ten pilots flew the Zapata Ezfly last October without incident
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Ten pilots flew the Zapata Ezfly last October without incident
The Zapata Ezfly is capable of reaching altitudes of up to 10,000 feet and speeds of 80 mph (129 km/h)
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The Zapata Ezfly is capable of reaching altitudes of up to 10,000 feet and speeds of 80 mph (129 km/h)
The Zapata Ezfly has two hand-held control sticks attached to the base of the platform that make it much easier to get the hang of than the original Flyboard Air
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The Zapata Ezfly has two hand-held control sticks attached to the base of the platform that make it much easier to get the hang of than the original Flyboard Air
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The Zapata Ezfly looks for all intents and purposes like a Segway of the sky. You stand on a small platform equipped with a series of jet thrusters, holding two handgrips that come up from the base, then rise up into the air and zoom around, steering with your bodyweight.

It builds on the platform of Franky Zapata's Flyboard Air, a green goblin-style flying platform with no Segway-style handgrips. The Flyboard Air, like the water-propelled Flyboard that started this whole venture for Zapata, straps you in at the boots, and requires an extraordinary amount of core strength and balance to operate – which its inventor most certainly has.

Zapata has frequently been seen zooming around over waterways in Europe and the United States, testing and updating his invention, sometimes with the blessing of the authorities, sometimes without.

The new Ezfly system is a dangerously disruptive idea, because it looks for all the world like it takes very little training to operate, so just about anyone could fly one. You don't strap your boots in, you just stand on the platform and hang onto the control sticks, pretty much like a three-dimensional Segway.

ZAPATA EZFLY

In the above video, Zapata shows a testing session held last October somewhere in Texas, where no less than 10 pilots jumped aboard the Ezfly and took turns blasting about over the surface of a lake. Everyone seemed to be able to get the hang of it pretty quickly, and there were no incidents. Notably, a couple of the guys in the test team were wearing military gear, which would make sense, as it's no secret the US defence forces are highly interested in personal flight devices.

In fact, the Ezfly looks like a vastly slimmed-down, much more powerful, jet propelled descendent of the Hiller Flying Platform, which was built in the 1950s and tested by the U.S. Army before eventually being abandoned.

The fact that Zapata was willing to put a range of people on board suggests that the Ezfly has a bunch of built-in stability gear, as well as potentially an altitude/distance from base limiter. You could even feasibly have a drone-style remote control to bring back a wayward pilot in distress. We'd love to know more, but Zapata hasn't yet responded to our enquiries.

One thing we can be fairly sure it doesn't have is an active safety system, because nothing of that nature really exists as yet.

Ballistic parachute systems are well and good, but they don't have time to slow your fall if you're flying at altitudes of less than about 100 ft (30 m). By the time they've opened up, you're the shape and texture of a pizza. That's a problem everyone's dealing with in this new VTOL space, from the flying car guys to the Jetpack people – once you're way up in the air, ballistic chutes are handy to have, but between the ground and 100 feet, a system failure could be absolutely catastrophic.

The Zapata Ezfly is capable of reaching altitudes of up to 10,000 feet and speeds of 80 mph (129 km/h)
The Zapata Ezfly is capable of reaching altitudes of up to 10,000 feet and speeds of 80 mph (129 km/h)

Devices like the Ezfly and Jetpack Aviation's JB-series jetpacks are capable of flying up to 10,000 ft in the air, but they're realistically going to spend 90 percent of their time in the death zone between 15-100 ft (4.5-30m), particularly if they become available to the public as recreational machines. So we wouldn't expect to see this come out as a commercial product, or move into military service, until that detail has been thoroughly dealt with.

And it will be dealt with. Our feeling is that it's only a matter of time before devices like the Ezfly become the new jet skis of the sky – unbelievably fun, massively noisy, amazing but slightly obnoxious extreme leisure machines. Bring it on.

Source: Zapata

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22 comments
MD
Well.. Ultralights have existed for a long time, and in many countries they are essentially unregulated... Yet the skies are not filled with ultralights... For that matter the waterways are not exactly filled with jetskis either (by filled I mean, take a look at a popular beach on a summers day, that is filled). Not going to happen... on that scale... BTW, props for dwelling on the Coffin / Death zone. People have to really realise that when dealing with aviation everything leads to death, except when everything works perfectly every time.
PaleDale
So now it's just like the Williams x-jet from the 1970's but with some stabilisation smarts built in. Unless I can fly one of these to and from work every day I'll continue to get my kicks from FPV racing drones, where I stay on the ground nice and safe while my $200 toy takes all the risk :)
Towerman
"People have to really realise that when dealing with aviation everything leads to death, except when everything works perfectly every time." BS... engines fail all the time. Planes will fly to the ground safely with just one or 2 engines, or with no engines at all, so will a helicopter auto rotate. There is risk and sometimes it does not work yes, it does not always lead to death. It's just a matter of getting the safety anomaly to work with personal VTOL's redundant motors/engines is a start, perhaps use a ballistic rocket to blast you up to an altitude where you can deploy a parachute, yes that is likely not easy to implement and at what weight cost ? However it's an idea and a possible start, What is yours ?
CarolynFarstrider
Some type of airbag system?
MerlinGuy
Sadly, no mention of it looking so much like Dick Tracy's Air Car. True it doesn't have the windshield or bullet proof body.
Techtwit
Not sure I really want somebody flying a few feet over me whilst blasting hot high speed jet engine exhaust downwards towards me.
KerryDay
Already successfully built and tested for the military years ago flying platforms would be great to watch in demonstrations or to fly a couple times , but thats it .
Expanded Viewpoint
At the bottom of the platform, they could build in as a part of it a Hydrogen Peroxide rocket motor. That would easily shove the pilot up a few hundred feet so a 'chute could be deployed. But the control for it would have to be designed so that it wasn't activated by accident or anything other than a real immanent emergency. Maybe something like the ejection handle of a fighter plane? Some serious amount of thought will have to go into engineering a safety system that has a reliability factor greater than the flying unit itself and a TON of beta testing to make sure that the death zone can be cut down. These units are not going to be given away for free like Obamanation phones in every other parking lot or street corner, so we won't be seeing lots of mid-air collisions with them. The costs will be much too high for just the average Joe or Jane to buy and operate one. Randy
Lardo
Two thing I have yet to see mentioned: 1) Cost. You have to know this thing will be prohibitively expensive. 2) Fuel capacity and burn rate. How long can this thing stay in the air? BTW... Techtwit makes a very good point. High velocity scorching hot-air, only feet above my head? Yea, no thanks.
Bruce H. Anderson
It will be interesting to see information regarding flight time and/or range. To Techtwit's comment, absent from most discussions on air taxis and the like is any discussion of propwash and its affects on things under and around it. This will be a toy for some, or a device for military or search & rescue. Probably expensive, not terribly efficient, and never in large numbers. But it is way cool.