August 8, 2013 1:49 pm
There’s a big difference between designing and building an awesome, ingenious and completely fun-looking device and using that creation in the real world. Take, for instance, Zapata Racing’s “Flyboard,” a contraption that looks like an early, aquatic prototype of Iron Man’s flight suit. Does it look like a ton of fun? You bet. Does it look incredibly dangerous? Absolutely. Is its widespread use a good idea? Hawaiian officials aren’t so sure.
The Flyboard and other jetpack-style devices are popping up from Florida to California, says the Associated Press. “But some in the Aloha State are far less enthusiastic about the machines.”
They certainly seem dangerous. The Flyboard, says the AP, will push you 46 feet into the air. That’s about a 4 story drop, if something goes wrong. Plus, marine scientists are worried about the effect these devices would have on the local ecosystem:
University of Hawaii coral scientist Bob Richmond told officials he was concerned about the noise the devices make, as fish avoid areas that are too loud. He’s also worried fish and coral larvae could get pumped through some of the equipment the watercraft use and die.
The dangers from these aquatic jetpacks don’t seem to be much different than boats, but with Hawaii’s coastal ecosystems already not doing so well, the addition seems to be an unwanted one.
The state may find a way to accommodate the devices, perhaps in selected places, said William Aila, chairman of the Board of Land and Natural Resources. But Aila said studies are needed examining how such watersports may affect fish and coral.
“When you look at it, it looks fairly exciting,” he said. “But you got to look beyond the excitement.”
More from Smithsonian.com:
Sign up for our free email newsletter and receive the best stories from Smithsonian.com each week.