Latvian snowboarders have taken up "droneboarding"

Towed along frozen lakes at speeds of up to 60km/h

Wakeboarding fans don't have a lot to do in the wintertime, while snowboarders don't get to enjoy their hobby in the summer. But a Latvian drone company is hoping to unify both tribes with a sport called droneboarding.

The principle is simple. You stand on your snowboard on the surface of a frozen lake, grip a tow-line and hang on tight as a three-metre-wide drone drags you behind it. In the summer, you can do the same thing over water.

Something big

The drone was built by Latvian firm Aerones, and has 16 rotors – making it more of a hexadecacopter than a quadcopter. "The idea was always to build something big, to see how much power it could have," CEO Janis Putrams told AFP.

"We started thinking about it two years ago. It was a sort of Friday afternoon idea and we just wondered if it would be possible," he added.

It's controlled from the shore and has a top speed of 150 km/h, but the craft is hard to pilot at those speeds so it's usually limited to 60km/h. Flight times are about 10 minutes before the on-board batteries need recharging.

Search and rescue

While droneboarding is just for fun, The company hopes the underlying technology can be adapted to work in many other areas, as each drone can carry up to 145 kilograms. 

With the first model costing about 35,000 euros to build, Aerones is looking to partner with firefighting and search and rescue organisations to develop it further.

"We could use it to lift someone from the roof of a burning building, or a hose could be sprayed on parts of a fire that would be inaccessible to ladders," said Putrams.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Duncan Geere is TechRadar's science writer. Every day he finds the most interesting science news and explains why you should care. You can read more of his stories here, and you can find him on Twitter under the handle @duncangeere.