How do flyboards work?

These jet ski accessories use water to keep you airborne

(Image credit: Raysonho/ Wikimedia Commons)

There could be some time to wait before we are commuting to work by jetpack or hopping on a hoverboard to go shopping, but hydroflight is giving us a glimpse into the future of flying transport.

Ditching the concept of the combustion engine for water power, hydroflight jetpacks and flyboards are firing people up in the air, albeit while tethered to a motor. The principle of hydroflight involves using a jet ski or personal watercraft (PWC) to generate enough force through a connecting pipe to lift a person out of the water.

When the operator turns on the jet ski’s throttle it causes the motorised blades beneath to accelerate. This ‘impeller’ suck up large amounts of water from the body of water the PWC sits on, and pumps it out the other side. The expulsion of water generates enough force to move the jet ski forward.

When that expelled water is pumped into a hose rather than back into the ocean, that generated force flows through the hose, leaving the jet ski stationary. By placing a jetpack at the end of the hose and directing the release of water downwards, a pilot can utilise the generated force to fly in the air.

The first hydroflight jetpack, JetLev, came from inventor Raymond Li in 2009. He initially attempted to house a motor capable of generating enough thrust on his back, but it wasn’t until he outsourced that task to a PWC that his invention really took off. Li and his JetLev rose from the water’s surface, starting a whole new industry that has expanded enormously since then.

Now a common sight at many popular holiday destinations around the world, hydroflight has diversified from the jetpack design into flyboards and even into flying jet skis.

 This article was originally published in How It Works issue 130, written by Scott Dutfield 

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