You are closer than you think to the future. Far-fetched ideas in science-fiction movies often end up becoming real. Drones are a classic example, popping up first in The Terminator movies and now commonplace in our skies. However, are we ready for flying boats?

Based on the evidence of The Jet ZeroEmission, a hydrogen-powered flying vessel created by French entrepreneur Alain Thébault, it seems we are. Recently, he made headlines in Dubai with the presentation of his luxury flying boat and he hopes other cities will be as interested in his innovative transport, especially those with a coastline or extensive waterways.

Thébault looks forward to his flying boat winning fans in cities such as Miami, Switzerland, Hong Kong and Singapore.

A cross between an America’s Cup hydrofoil and an electric bus, the hydrogen- powered boat has a take-off speed of 18 knots, while its cruise speed is 35 to 40 knots (65 to 74 kph). As its name suggests, it has zero emissions credentials. With one pilot and one crew member, the Jet can accommodate up to 10 passengers. It will be controlled with two iPads which can adjust the boat’s height when travelling across the water.

But why Dubai for its maiden voyage? “The Middle East and the UAE in particular, tick many boxes for us. It has a perfect sea environment, a start-up and an innovation-friendly financial ecosystem, plus the appetite from the government to lead the energy transition towards more sustainable development,” says The Jet ZeroEmission’s chief executive Pascal Armoudom.

The Jet ZeroEmission already has the blessing of Prince Albert of Monaco. Thébault created two electronic prototypes five years ago and flew the prince in one. The royal passenger was so impressed that he offered the support of the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation.

(Related: AQUA: The hydrogen-powered superyacht that wants to explore uncharted waters)

A work in progress since the 1990s

However, it wasn’t all plain sailing for Thébault, who had dreamed of getting a boat in the air since he was a teenager. During the 1990s, he designed and built a large flying boat, l’Hydroptère, for Airbus. A hydrofoil trimaran, it crashed three times and was rebuilt every time, demonstrating how persistence pays off. In 2009, l’Hydroptère finally crossed the symbolic 50-knot wind barrier, and remains the fastest ocean-going sailboat in the world.

Then came Seabubbles, a proof of concept, before he came up with The Jet ZeroEmission, which many consider a game changer in the luxury transport world. Its motto “No Noise, No Wave, No Emission” resonates with governments, exclusive hotels and the high-net-worths it is targetted at.

“Zero emission mobility has already taken place on the ground with electric vehicles such as Tesla and others. In space and the aviation sector, we are seeing start-ups developing low-carbon emissions planes, so it’s obvious that something similar should take place on the water,” Armoudom adds.

Ready for take-off in 2023

The construction of the first boat is set to begin this September and will take almost one year to complete. According to the Jet team, there has been a lot of interest from governments around the world, including Dubai’s leaders. Clean and renewable energy is a priority for the UAE, which aims to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. As part of its push into new sources or energy, the UAE wants to capture around a quarter of the global hydrogen export market.

But The Jet ZeroEmission founder, however, doesn’t want the boat to be mass-produced, and instead aims to make it exclusive and a limited edition. When asked, Armoudom wouldn’t reveal how much each boat will cost to manufacture.

In contrast to seaplanes, The Jet ZeroEmission will glide about 80cm above the water. Designed with foils that lift the hull out of the water, the boat provides a quiet, low-resistance and fuel-efficient ride. Thanks to its quiet hydrogen-powered engine, it promises to be one of the smoothest, and most spectacular, ways to travel in the future.

Goodbye sea sickness — or is that air sickness?

(Related: Green lessons from the ship that travels the world)

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