Fliteboard from Australia developed the Fliteboards – an electric hydrofoil which lets you fly above the water controlled by a remote control in your hand.
CEO and founder David Trewern who was grown up in the small Australian surf town Merimbula and started to surf and windsurf with 10 years. Later on he switched to kitesurfing where he broke the GPS speed world record of 44.9 knots in 2015. Through kitesurfing he got also introduced to hydrofoils.
Fliteboard – the beginning
For days without wind David was thinking about a hydrofoil with electric motor and worked on up to 20 prototypes with friends. His goal was very soon to develop the first electric hydrofoil with the motor integrated into the fuselage. What had started as a project for fun became a full time startup to bring out the Flite Fliteboard.
David had already founded 2 successful companies which had hundreds of employees at the end, but the Fliteboard was according to him the most complex process. The first months the focus was on the engineering process and hundreds of hours in front of the computer to define the right setup. The board, the foil, propulsion systems, battery and remote control were challenging hardware and software projects.
A lot of challenges
David found out that he needs more power than he expected and at the same time the weight needed to be reduced. And of course all components need to be salt-water resistant. He didn’t allow any compromises, he said, to develop a product that he would not only buy, but queue up to buy. David is living and working Byron Bay very close to the beach which allows him to test his e-foils almost every day. He spent several hundred hours on the Fliteboard to test it again and again.
I had the chance to meet David and the team multiple times. The first time was in summer 2018 where I had the chance to ride the prototypes in Spain. I was riding the inflatable version and the standard version.. It was easier to ride than 2 other electric hydrofoil ( a DIY board and the first Cabratec) I tried before. Only the Lift Foils eFoil gave me a similar experience. I meet the team again in January 2019 at boot in Dusseldorf for a video interview.
The electric hydrofoil from Flite started shipping to some beta users end of 2018 and began to deliver pre-orders in April 2019. The board comes in 3 versions:
- Fliteboard Air – The Air model is the largest board with 198 cm length and 76 cm width and is an inflatable board. It has more volume which makes it easier to stand on. However, it has more resistance on the water surface than the carbon fibre models which makes it actually smoother to switch to the standard model once you get a feeling for the foil. The Air is ideal for rentals and yacht owners.
- Fliteboard (Standard) – The standard model would fit for most of the riders. It is the allrounder with a length of 172 cm and a width of 71 cm. It has a carbon fibre hull and is available in black, white and ash.
- Fliteboard Pro – The pro model is shorter with a length of only 152 cm and a width of 62 cm. It is designed for lighter riders for higher speeds and more aggressive carving. It has also a carbon fibre hull and is available in black, white and ash.
All models are using the same modular components such as the mast which is available in 60 cm and 75 cm length. While the shorter mast is easier for beginners the larger mast is better for choppy water and aggressive turns. Both sizes are available in either aluminium or black color.
The batteries come also in 2 choices. there is a sport version which is lighter, but has less range. In addition the Cruiser version which is about 350 EUR more expensive. The larger one is probably the better choice for most riders as it gives 1 hour riding time. In addition you have 2 choices for the wings. The Cruiser wing and the Fly wing, which is smaller for higher speeds up to 40 km/h.
We were lucky and were able to get one of the first boards which were exhibited at the boot show. Our choice was the standard board in ash with 75 cm aluminium mast powered by the Cruiser battery and Cruiser wing.
One of the unique features (at least by spring 2019) are the virtual gears which can be set on the remote control. You have 20 gears in order to limit your maximum speed. This is helpful for beginners because once they figure out the right speed, they can always pull the full throttle and don’t need to worry about keeping the speed constant.
The remote control has a very bright display. It informs you about speed, travel distance, battery charge and warns you if something would be wrong. Of course it is water-proof and is secured by a small leash to your wrist. The hand controller is also your “virtual security leash” as the board will automatically stop once the Bluetooth connection ist lost.
This happens right away if you fall into the water. You also need to arm the board with the remote control. In order to do that you are holding it to a sensor at the top of the board and then pull the trigger within 5 seconds. Otherwise the motor will not start. This is to protect you in case you pull the trigger by mistake before you are ready to ride.
The set ships with 3 bags. One board bag, one bag for the remote, the foil, wings, charger and tools as well asa case for the battery. We hope you enjoyed this Fliteboard overview and we have a Fliteboard section in our electric surfboard forum where you can ask additional questions.
Fliteboards market launch:
Shipping was initially delayed by a couple of months, as David and his engineering team kept on refining the Fliteboard product in pursuit of perfection. Data connectors, seals, fixings have all been refined after around 10,000km of on water testing. Fliteboard creator David Trewern says:
“The extra effort has been well worth it, and initial customer feedback has been exceptional. In-fact around 20% of the first customers ordered a 2ndFliteboard within a few weeks (either for themselves, family or a friend).”
“Every time I ride Fliteboard I am reminded what a special product this is. Driven by our passion to make something truly great, we have ended up spending four times our initial research and development budget. There were so many challenges to overcome, and we saw these as opportunities to make a really standout product. We really have taken the eFoil concept to a whole new level”.
Trewern has a background as an award winning graphic and digital designer and entrepreneur, heralding from a family of architects and engineers.
“From the outset Fliteboard needed to be as beautiful as it is functional. We set out to create new innovations to ensure Fliteboard stood out from the competition”.
Inspired by companies such as Porsche, Apple, Wally Yachts, DJI and Tesla, Trewern and his team set about creating a craft that they themselves would aspire to own. Some of the design features of the final production Fliteboard include:
Fliteboards unibody Hydrofoil fuselage and propulsion system
“Simply attaching the motor to the hydrofoil mast wasn’t good enough for us. We created our world first ‘unibody’ powered hydrofoil fuselage – sculptured from a single block of aircraft grade aluminum. It took countless attempts to get the design and engineering right, but the outcome is superior hydrodynamic performance, efficiency and a more compact and robust design”
The Fliteboard drive train uses a German made reduction gearbox. This allows for use of a smaller diameter motor that generates torque at higher RPM. David claims this is where electric motors are most efficient. The end result is runtime of up to 90 minutes for an 80kg rider, and up to 30km range.
Instead of using water cooling tubes, Fliteboard has developed the patented Flitebox system. This combines the board attachment mechanism with electronics housing, waterproofing and cooling. Fliteboard’s custom electronics system and motor controller are housed in the Flitebox.
This one is bonded to the Aluminum mast to act as a giant heat sink. This system makes for much simpler connection of components, as the motor controller is permanently attached to the motor itself.
“We wanted the smallest hand controller in the market. We also wanted sophisticated rider functions that could be software upgradeable into the future. This allows us to keep evolving the product and upgrading functions for our customers; in the same way that you can upgrade your iPhone software, or unlock new features in a Tesla after purchase”.
The Fliteboard electronics will be updatable over Bluetooth via the soon to be released Fliteboard App. This is similar to other electric hydrofoil manufacturers such like Lift Foils.
A GPS and data logger is included which allows riders to download and share their rides. Secondly they can review system statistics and send diagnostic information to Fliteboard.
The hand controller uses hall sensors for precise throttle response, but also proprietary software functions like ‘virtual gears’. This system provides consistent power, which allows riders to focus on balancing on the board rather than on the throttle. In our own testings last year we were a big fan of the virtual gears as it indeed helps at the beginning, but after 1-2 hours you usually go to the top gear to have the flexibility on the water to deal with wind and waves.
Safety features not seen on other boards are also included such as automatic shut-off and magnetic arming. This acts as a virtual leash. This means you can’t run the propeller without confirming you are on the board and ready to go. After a crash the system disarms. Safety is important and there is no doubt about it.
Advanced riders however might get enjoyed after some time to arm the board every time they want to start foiling. The process is like following. You have to hold the remote control to a sensor at the top of the board and pull the throttle within 5 seconds in order to start the engine. Some people may like this additional level of safety, some may not.
The GPS based trip computer monitors the Flite Cell smart battery and provides live riding data. For example such as remaining distance and time, and includes a efficiency optimizer screen. The latter one helps riders minimize energy consumed.
Fliteboard offers two batteries including the ‘Sport’ 1.56kwh battery and the ‘Explore’ which is a 2.1kwh unit.
Trewern had this to say about the battery:
“The battery is a such a critical component for safety, endurance, performance and longevity. We have worked really hard to create what we believe is the world’s best portable marine battery. Our case has been drop tested from a 2m height and maintained it’s waterproofing every time. We have included many new innovations like a magnetic on-off switch and a sight-glass that provides a reliable manual water sensor, allowing the user to double check for water ingress before charging the battery. We have used extremely high quality and high power 18650 cells that generate minimal heat and allow heavier riders and those seeking high performance to get maximum results from their Fliteboard”
As far as materials go, Fliteboard has spared no expense according to David:
“We were told by a number of experts that it wasn’t possible to create a quality wood finish board that met our strength and weight requirements. But we persevered, and the result is one of the most sophisticated watersport boards of any type. The Ash veneer Fliteboards are designed to be right at home on a Super Yacht in the Mediterranean”.
Regular Carbon fibre wasn’t enough for Fliteboard:
“We sourced Innegra Carbon hexagonal weave from Italy. Innegra is the lightest fibre commercially available, as well as being literally bulletproof”.
Fliteboard -The future
After 35 years windsurfing and surfing and 20 years kitesurfing – founder Trewern now spends his spare time almost exclusively on a Fliteboard.
‘Foiling above the water continuously is such an amazing experience that I never get tired of. While Fliteboard can travel at up to 45 km/h, riding at relatively slow speeds can be really fun. Carving turns, riding swells or exploring rivers and lakes. You don’t have to worry about wind or waves. I love all water based board sports – but I’m really loving the cruisey experience of Fliteboard above all else. Just turn it on and go. It gets your heart rate up, it can be challenging to balance and you work your legs and your core. After a long day at work it’s more of a relaxing than high adrenaline experience. But of course you can push it as hard as you like. If you really get into turns and ocean swells, it feels like you are riding one long continuous glassy wave for up to 90 minutes, which is simply amazing”.
Fliteboard and other electric hydrofoil manufacturers are also arguably the world most ocean friendly powered watercraft. This is because they are running for up to 25 km on a charge without emissions, noise or wake. David hopes Fliteboard (and other eFoils) open the door to a new era of quiet, pollution free and highly efficient water transport.
“Living in Byron bay – I’d love to see a day where the only power boats in the bay are quiet, efficient, electric powered and emission free. We hope Fliteboard is the first of many products that can help us arrive at that future”.