French jetpack inventor injured after losing control, smashing into lake

Franky Zapata on his flying board
Franky Zapata had previously flown one of his machines over the English Channel. Photo credit: Getty Images

While there are likely few tech geeks who haven't dreamed about riding a jetpack to work, a French inventor has shown why it may not happen any time soon.

Franky Zapata, who has been developing personal flying machines for use on land and water for a decade, was injured after a terrifying crash into a lake.

The former jet-ski champion fell about 15m into Lake Bicarrosse in south western France after losing control of his invention.

In a video posted to Twitter, Zapata is shown taking off during an exhibition event and quickly starts to spin.

After about 15 seconds of flight, Zapata starts to lose height quickly, with his speed of spinning increasing before hitting the water hard.

There was concern for Zapata's safety on social media with some wondering if the fact his feet were fixed into heavy machinery would stop him being able to surface.

However, the user who posted the original video confirmed he was rescued within 30 seconds of the crash.

French media site Sud Ouest reported Zapata was conscious as emergency services pulled him from the lake. He remained under observation in hospital, with officials telling reporters he was showing "good sensitivity and motor skills".

Later Zapata, who has been nicknamed 'the flying man' by French media, tweeted a statement thanking everyone for their messages of support, saying he was doing well.

The crash, he said, was a reminder that humans "are not birds and if we are not excellent then gravity wins".

"We learn from our mistakes," he continued.

The flyboard Zapata was piloting is powered by micro-turbines and can reach speeds of up to 140km/h, according to reports.

In 2019, Zapata crossed the English Channel using one of his devices in just 22 minutes. The successful crossing came a week after he'd had to abandon his first attempt.

Back then, his kerosene-filled backpack needed to be replaced as there wasn't enough fuel onboard.

He fell into the sea after failing to switch to another backpack quickly enough.

He told the crowd in Dover who welcomed him after his successful flight that he had reached speeds of up to 170km/h.