One year after creating a sensation with a video of a hoverboard he created, its developer said he was recently told he would be arrested if he flew it again in France.
As a result, Franky Zapata, founder of Zapata Racing, said it’s likely he will leave France and pursue further research and development elsewhere.
“I’m going to be obliged with the greatest of regrets to definitely leave France,” he wrote on a Facebook post (translated from French). “I am really sad. I love my country. I am French in my heart, in my culture, and in my soul.”
Zapata operates Zapata Racing, a company that makes a range of fairly remarkable flying contraptions, including a jetpack. But these are generally tethered by a long hose to feed the fuel. Last year, Zapata gained international attention when this demonstration video of the Fly Board hit YouTube:
With the fuel in a backpack, the Fly Board offered almost limitless distance and freedom of movement. It seemed to be the real hoverboard deal.
But Zapata said he has been told by French aviation authorities that he is not allowed to fly the device in France. Apparently, his hoverboard is being classified as an unauthorized aircraft. He was said he was threatened with arrest and a prison sentence if he took to the air again. He has tried to appeal to other government officials, but with no luck so far.
So he made a public appeal for support with this Facebook post last Friday:
It prompted an outpouring of support, including a petition on Change.org asking the French government to intervene on his behalf to allow him to fly and stay in the country.
“We protest against such an infringement of our freedom to create, invent, innovate and develop,” says the petition, which has more than 10,000 signatures.
His case also attracted the attention of local French media:
It’s unclear what Zapata’s timetable is for making a final decision about leaving. We’ve reached out to his PR team for comment and will update with any response.