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Hovercraft

Paper:
Operation and
Application
Carson Brown
Period 5
A hovercraft is a vehicle that floats above terrain on an air cushion. The air cushion is

kept under the craft by a skirt along the edges. The skirt is an imperfect seal, allowing it to leak

air that the skirt uses to glide across the surface. The hovercraft is virtually frictionless, meaning

it depends on a fan or propeller for propulsion. The low friction means very little power is

necessary to move the craft. A hovercraft can travel over virtually any flat surface, regardless of

how solid it is. It cannot, however, travel up hills greater than 20 degrees, on rough surfaces,

over sharp objects, or in narrow spaces. All of these limitations are due to the fragile nature of

the hull and the skirt, as well as the inferior air-based steering and air propulsion systems.

However, these limitations do not mean they lack performance. Many hovercraft can travel very

fast speeds, depending on the type of hovercraft. Light hovercraft can travel up to 84mph, large

craft can exceed 100mph, and racing and cruising craft can travel over 70mph, but normally

operate at 45mph and 20-35mph respectively. Once it passes a speed of 50mph, the hovercraft

becomes a low flying aircraft.

Hovercraft are also very safe for the environment, as they can pass over delicate plants

and small wildlife without harming it. This is because no propeller or wheels touch the surface,

mitigating the possibility of damaging anything. They are extremely efficient, as they consume

less fuel than almost all other transportation methods. The fuel is stored within the hull, meaning

spillage or leaks is almost impossible. Its use of 4 stroke engines means less pollution. There is

no wake or underwater noise generated, leaving the surrounding environment almost entirely

undisturbed. They are also much more versatile than boats, as they can transition between land

and water without a slipway or dock.

There are commercial and recreational hovercraft. The former UK cross channel ferry is

an example of a commercial hovercraft, which are operated and made like ships or aircrafts.
Recreational hovercrafts can be divided into 2 subcategories: cruising and racing. Racing

hovercraft are smaller crafts, usually only able to fit one person, that are designed to compete on

custom courses. Their emphasis is on speed and maneuverability. Cruising hovercraft, on the

other hand, are built to operate efficiently and at a lower speed, to transport a small group of

people in a multitude of environments. In terms of propulsion, there are two hovercraft

variations: single propeller and multi propeller. For the single propeller hovercraft, there is only

one propeller system for lift and thrust. The propeller system is either vertical or inclined,

making the lift dependent on thrust. It uses a duct to push air below the skirt. It cannot hover

stationary, and is typically smaller. The multi propeller hovercraft, on the other hand, has

different propeller systems for lift and thrust. The horizontal system controls lift, and the vertical

system controls thrust. The amount of lift is independent of the amount of thrust, allowing it to

hover in one place. It is typically larger than a single propeller hovercraft.

Hovercraft can be used on lakes, rivers, snow, frozen terrain, mud, swamp, and ocean. It

is possible to operate hovercraft on roads, but this is not recommended as the slightly humped

surface will create inconsistent driving and the road's rough surface will wear the skirt. They are

used for entertainment, public transportation, cargo transportation, research, education, military

purposes, fishing, exploration, surveying, clean up, and competition. They are useful in that they

can explore narrow waterways unreachable by boat, rescue stranded people or objects, and travel

over environmentally sensitive areas. They are frequently used by the military as assault vehicles

and a means of troop transportation, dive recovery teams, Border Patrol and Homeland Security,

Port authorities, drug enforcement, TV and film organizations such as the James Bond

production team, and scientists for survey work.


Hovercraft are not always the most practical option. They often consume very large

amounts of fuel, and the skirt requires constant repair. As such, unless they are required for a

very particular circumstance, most companies choosing to transport cargo or passengers prefer

using a boat. Also, a jet ski is a popular alternative in terms of leisure. These alternatives are only

necessary on the ocean however, or in cases where very large loads must be transported. The

ocean is very rough on hovercraft, and lots of weight requires lots of fuel to be expended. Those

two circumstances are when the hovercraft is not very viable, and other transportation methods

must be utilized.
Works Cited

Administrator. “Latest News.” What Is a Hovercraft?, www.hovercruiser.org.uk/about-

hovercraft/19-what-is-a-hoverrcaft.html.

“FYI: Why Aren't Hovercraft More Useful?” Popular Science, 24 Apr. 2013,

www.popsci.com/technology/article/2013-04/why-aren%E2%80%99t-hovercraft-more-

useful.

“Hovercraft FAQ.” DiscoverHover: Hovercraft FAQ,

www.discoverhover.org/abouthovercraft/faq.htm.

“Types of Hovercraft.” Scribd, Scribd, www.scribd.com/doc/262954321/Types-of-Hovercraft.