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Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the award of degree of

bachelor of technology in mechanical engineering


V SHIVA KUMAR 07281A0318




(Approved by AICTE and Affiliated to JNTU Hyderabad)



Vehicles designed to travel close to but above ground or

water. These vehicles are supported in various ways.
Some of them have a specially designed wing that will
lift them just off the surface over which they travel when
they have reached a sufficient horizontal speed (the
ground effect). Hovercrafts are usually supported by fans
that force air down under the vehicle to create lift, Air
propellers, water propellers, or water jets usually provide
forward propulsion. Air-cushion vehicles can attain
higher speeds than can either ships or most land vehicles
and use much less power than helicopters of the same
weight. Air-cushion suspension has also been applied to
other forms of transportation, in particular trains, such as
the French Aero train and the British hover train.

Hovercraft is a transportation vehicle that rides slightly

above the earth’s surface. The air is continuously forced
under the vehicle by a fan, generating the cushion that
greatly reduces friction between the moving vehicle and
surface. The air is delivered through ducts and injected at
the periphery of the vehicle in a downward and inward
direction. This type of vehicle can equally ride over ice,
water, marsh, or relatively level land.



The first recorded design for a hovercraft was in 1716
put forward by Emmanual Swedenborg, a Swedish

designer and philosopher. The project was short-lived

and a craft was never built. Swedenborg realized that to
operate such a machine required a source of energy far
greater than any available at that time. In the mid-1870s,
the British engineer Sir John Thornycroft built a number
of model craft to check the air-cushion effects and even
filed patents involving air-lubricated hulls, although the
technology required to implement the concept did not yet
exist. From this time both American and European
engineers continued work on the problems of designing a
practical craft. In the early 1950s the British inventor
Christopher Cockerell began to experiment with such
vehicles, and in 1955 he obtained a patent for a vehicle
that was "neither an airplane, nor a boat, nor a wheeled
land craft." He had a boat builder produce a two-foot
prototype, which he demonstrated to the military in 1956
without arousing interest. Cockerell persevered, and in
1959 a commercially built one-person Hovercraft crossed
the English Channel. In 1962 a British vehicle became
the first to go into active service on a 19-mi (31-km)
ferry run.


When building a hovercraft it is imperative that you are
sure you have a firm grasp of the important concepts and
principles involved. An elementary knowledge of
physics is required. Ease of use, cost, availability and
safety are all significant considerations when building a
hovercraft. Care must be taken in selecting a motor and
propeller for the proper function and stability of the
hovercraft and to meet your needs for thrust and lift. A
good skirt design is essential for stability and of course,
body designs must be well thought-out in order to meet

your needs for speed and stability. Finally, the rudders

must be well weighed out in order to avoid weighing
down your hovercraft and also well shaped in order to
move air as efficiently as possible.


Hovercrafts work on the two main principles of lift and
propulsion. When dealing with a hovercraft, the
existence of lift is imperative for the proper function of
the vehicle. Lift is an essential factor because it is that
which allows the craft to ride on a cushion of air several
inches off the ground. This process, the process of
attaining lift begins by directing airflow under the craft.
In order to quarantine the air under the air cushion, a
skirt is required. This is done in order to create pressure
under the hovercraft which forces the vehicle off the
ground. Attaining the proper amount of airflow is
imperative for the maintenance of the craft’s stability. If
too much airflow is directed under the craft, it will then
hover too high above the ground, resulting in the
hovercraft to tip. Not enough lift will cause the craft to
remain on the ground which defeats the very purpose of
the hovercraft altogether. The source of the airflow
which propels the craft of the ground is a fan. The fan
can be used for lift and thrust. It can be dedicated to lift
or thrust or even both simultaneously. In either case the
passage where the air flows through to reach the air
cushion affects the stability of the hovercraft. This
passage is a hole located on the base of the craft. Another
vital component is the motor. The motor is usually
located in the rear of the vehicle and is the heaviest of the
components. Due to the weight of the motor, extra

pressure is required under the area where the motor is

positioned in order to attain hovering capabilities.
That which makes hovercrafts so efficient and different
from other vehicles of its category is that very little force
is required for it to move. Propulsion is that which makes
the craft move. The source of this effect is the fan, which
is used to move the air for propulsion. However odd as it
may seem, the fan produces more than enough force for
the hovercraft to move. This is achieved through the
existence of another major factor:
Hovercrafts have no contact with the ground; therefore
any resistance the ground may produce under other
circumstances is now non-existent for the craft. As
explained above, the propulsion of the craft requires a
fan but a normal fan is not sufficient. This is because a
normal fan does not blow air straight back. Instead it
spins the air in a spiral shape. Therefore engineers
decided to use turbines or stationary blades, that un-spin
the air. When air does not spin more of its kinetic energy
can be used for translation and less is required for
The shape of the body also affects the stability of the
hovercraft. The larger the area of the base, the more
stable it will be. Wider base implies greater stability.
Longer and narrower shapes increase speed but decrease
stability. Most hovercrafts have rounded ends, and offer
both stability and speed.
The skirt is another vital component. The common skirt
is known as a bag skirt. It is comprised of a bag that
covers the bottom of the base and has holes in it to allow
air to escape and push the craft off the ground. Each part
of the skirt inflates independently which makes repairs

much easier and improves stability. Unfortunately, the

more stable a skirt, the slower it will go.
When the hovercraft is finally able to move it will most
definitely require steering capabilities. This is achieved
through the use of rudders. These rudders can be
controlled by a variety of devices including computers.
Rudders cannot be too heavy otherwise they will weigh
down the craft because they are located very close to the
motor. The shape of the rudder dictates how well it will
be able to move air.
When riding a hovercraft the natural state of motion is
easily seen to be constant vector velocity with a constant
rate of rotation. A sloping floor will definitely change
your velocity vector without changing your rate of
rotation. In addition to Newton’s three laws of motion it
will become obvious that to avoid spinning or tilting the
hovercraft you must apply the forces in line with the
center of mass of the combination of the craft and your


2.4.1. Lifting Fan
Firstly the volume of air needed is very large and a
propeller is designed to be most efficient in open air like
on an aircraft. Also the fan needs to force air into the
chamber below the craft so creating a specific pressure
under the craft. Propellers again are not efficient in
applications when an air backpressure will be applied to
the propeller blades as they rotate. Because of this the
lifting fan on most Hovercraft uses what is known as a
centrifugal fan. This is a fan in which two discs and fitted
together and looks rather like a doughnut with angled
slats at their edges.

When the assembly is rotated at high-speed air is sucked

into the center hole in the fan and the slats force it out at
the edges. The advantages of the fan are two fold. They
operate efficiently in an environment when backpressure
is high and they will move larger volumes of air for a
given rotation speed than a propeller with the same speed
and power input. The lifting fan is coupled via a gearbox
to the engine. The engine also drives the propeller on the
craft, which provides thrust for forward motion of the

2.4.2. Thrust Propellers

The propeller used to drive the hovercraft along is
usually an aircraft type with variable pitch blades. Its
speed of rotation must remain fixed to that of the engine
and the lift fan. This is because the amount of lift air
required dictates the engine speed to drives the lift fan. In
turn the amount of propulsion, which the propellers
provide, must be obtained by varying the propeller pitch
and not its rate of rotation. This system is termed
'integrated lift/propulsion'. A Hovercraft having more
than one lift fan and propeller generally has a separate
engine for each fan-and propeller unit.
The propellers used on hovercraft can vary from four-
bladed versions and about nine feet in diameter on the
smaller craft to the four propellers on the SRN4 cross-
Channel hovercraft. These are four-bladed and nineteen
feet in diameter! On the SRN 4 the pylons on which they
are mounted can be rotated to change the direction of
thrust. On smaller craft, rudders like on aircraft, are used
for direction control.

2.4.3. Momentum Curtain

When early models were built and analysis was done on
the airflow using the plenum chamber type of hovercraft
it showed that there were problems with stability. In
addition the craft would require enormous power to
maintain a reasonable hover height.Stability of the
hovercraft on its cushion of air remained a real problem
despite some design efforts and a new approach was
needed. To solve these problems, a plenum chamber with
a momentum curtain was developed by Sir Christopher

2.4.4. Hovercraft Skirt

Despite the momentum curtain being very effective the
hover height was still too low unless great, and
uneconomical, power was used. Simple obstacles such as
small waves, or tide-formed ridges of shingle on a beach,
could prove to be too much for the hover height of the
craft. These problems led to the development of the
The skirt is a shaped, flexible strip fitted below the
bottom edges of the plenum chamber slot. As the
hovercraft lifts, the skirt extends below it to retain a
much deeper cushion of air. The development of the skirt
enables a hovercraft to maintain its normal operating
speed through large waves and also allows it to pass over
rocks, ridges and gullies.

The skirt of a hovercraft is one of its most design

sensitive parts. The design must be just right or an
uncomfortable ride for passengers or damage to the craft
and the skirts results. Also, excessive wear of the skirt

can occur if its edges are flapping up and down on the

surface of the water. The skirt material has to be light
flexible and durable all at the same time.

For the skirt to meet all of its requirements the design

and use of new materials has slowly evolved. The current
skirts use ‘fingers at the lower edge of the skirt envelope
which can be unbolted and replaced. By doing this there
is a quick and easy way to counter the effects of wear
without having to replace the whole skirt structure. A
shocking example of the costs is the replacement of the
skirt assembly on the SRN 4’s which used to cross the
English Channel from the UK to France. The
replacement cost for a set of skirts for this craft is over 5
million US Dollars.

2.4.5. The Engine

The SRN 1 and other early hovercrafts used piston type
engines. As models like the SRN 4 and SRN 6 were
brought into service they tended to favor the use of gas
turbines. This type of engine is smaller and lighter for a
given horsepower and has been used extensively in turbo
prop aircraft.

The engine has a main shaft on which is mounted a

compressor and a turbine. A starter motor is connected to
one end of the shaft and the other end is connected to the
lift fan and propeller gearboxes. Both compressor and
turbine look like fans with a large number of blades.
When the engine is started, the compressor compresses
air from the engine intakes and pushes it into combustion
chambers mounted around the engine. Fuel is squirted
into the combustion chambers and ignited. The

compressed air then rapidly expands as it is heated and

forces its way out through the turbine to the exhaust. As
the gas pressure rises, the turbine speeds up, thereby
driving the compressor faster. The engine speed
increases until it reaches the engine's normal operating
However, the use of these engines results in a very high
level of engine noise outside the craft. In the SRN 6 this
meant that it was possible to hear the craft traveling
across the Solent between Portsmouth and the Isle of
Wight in the UK several miles away. With the newer
generation of craft close attention was paid to engine
noise and fuel efficiency. The current AP188craft that
runs on the old SRN6 routes has now moved back
towards piston engines and uses marine diesel engines
that are much quieter and fuel efficient.

2.4.6. Air box

The box-like structure at the rear of the hovercraft, right
behind the propeller, the box-like structure is called an
air box. The air box takes about 10% of the air being
pushed backward by the propeller and forces it
downward, underneath the hovercraft. There are three
small ducts cut into the base of the hovercraft,
underneath the air box. Two of these ducts lead into the
skirt, which is basically a bag that goes all the way
around the perimeter of the craft, while the third duct
leads directly underneath the hovercraft.


Take a hovercraft which, complete with crew, fuel and
load, weighs 2,000 pounds (lbs.), and is 15 feet (ft.) long

and 7 ft. wide. Its area would be 15 ft x 7 ft. = 105 square

(sq.) ft.
If the craft is to hover, the pressure of air forming the
cushion must be 2,000 pounds or greater. This represents
19 pounds. Per sq. ft. Yes, only 19 pounds per square
feet is required to lift the hovercraft which seems much
smaller than you might imagine. From existing designs
of Hovercraft that have been developed, it is possible to
make some simple estimate of the power needed to lift a
Hovercraft. Using 19 pounds per square foot it is
estimated 4 horsepower for each sq. ft. of curtain or skirt
area can maintain that hover.
Curtain area is its length times its height. A hovercraft 15
ft. long by 7 ft. wide would have a curtain length of 44
ft.-twice the length plus twice the width.
If we want it to hover one foot high we would need
sufficient power to provide a curtain of 44 x 1 sq. ft. At 4
horsepower per sq, ft. we would need 176 horsepower
Just to lift the craft up to hover one foot above the
ground. Don't forget we now need to push the craft along
as well so that engine is the minimum size we can use.

When the hovercraft is finally able to move it will most
definitely require steering capabilities. This is achieved
through the use of rudders. These rudders can be
controlled by a variety of devices including computers.
The rudders must be well weighed out in order to avoid
weighing down your hovercraft and also well shaped in
order to move air as efficiently as possible.
Rudders cannot be too heavy otherwise they will weigh
down the craft because they are located very close to the

motor. The shape of the rudder dictates how well it will

be able to move air.


Piloting a hovercraft is an interesting proposition. Since
very little of it actually touches the ground, there isn't
much friction, making it very difficult to steer and also
very susceptible to strong winds. Imagine trying to drive
around on top of an air-hockey puck! We've discovered
that the best way to drive it is treat it like a jetski, i.e.
leaning back and forth and steering very carefully. It is
also possible to do a 360-degree turn without stopping,
which is quite a sight.

Aerodynamics is defined as the branch of fluid physics
that studies the forces exerted by air or other gases in
motion. Examples include the airflow around bodies
moving at speed through the atmosphere (such as land
vehicles, bullets, rockets, and aircraft), the behavior of
gas in engines and furnaces, air conditioning of
buildings, the deposition of snow, the operation of air-
cushion vehicles (hovercraft), wind loads on buildings
and bridges, bird and insect flight, musical wind
instruments, and meteorology. For maximum efficiency,
the aim is usually to design the shape of an object to
produce a streamlined flow, with a minimum of
turbulence in the moving air. The behavior of aerosols or
the pollution of the atmosphere by foreign particles are
other aspects of aerodynamics.
Hovercrafts are generally simple mechanisms in theory.
Yet the process from theory to manifestation is not as

easy as it may seem. A plethora of problems exist and

must be faced in order to attain a well functioning
hovercraft. The plans and designs must be flawless. One
must take under consideration the weight and the shape
of each component in order to avoid problems such as
instability and dysfunction. This is a marvelous machine
which greatly cuts down the friction which in turn helps
it to attain greater speed and more stability.

Varieties of problems and factors have to be taken into

account in designing and constructing a hovercraft. The
difficulties involved in maintaining stability and
functional competency has limited the application to only
transportation or for military purpose. The cost involved
in the developing of a hovercraft is also another
impediment to the widespread use of this machine.