How Does Hovercraft Work?

What kind of a machine is it? Who invented it? How does hovercraft work?
how does hovercraft work

There are certain inventions made over time that have just marveled at the engineering skills of humans and the development of technology. First, there were boats, then ships, and then, came submarines. All these inventions ruled the waterways while bikes, cars, and other vehicles dominated the land. Similarly, jets and aircrafts ruled the sky. But hovercraft is one such invention that can be operated and used as transport in all three terrains and on ice too. Isn’t that amazing? But how does hovercraft work? Read below to find out!

1. What is a Hovercraft?

It is a vehicle or a craft that can travel on water and land. Some of them can fly as well. It is also known as an ACV, i.e., Air Cushion Vehicle. In simpler words, hovercraft is partly boat, partly airplane, and a helicopter. It is basically drawn forward by the air blown downwards. (See How does it feel like to fly on a plane for the first time?)

2. Who invented it and when?

An English engineer named Sir Christopher Sydney Cockerell invented the hovercraft in the year 1955. He was born in Cambridge, England. Apart from his successful attempt, there have been several other philosophers and engineers who tried and understood this phenomenon. But the technology was not much advanced in their time, so they weren’t able to work or turn their idea into a finished product.

3. What is the theory laid down by Christopher Cockerell?

According to him, if the air, instead of being blown backward is blown downwards of the craft, then it would help it to lift completely from the surface of the water. So, he decided to pump the air around the perimeter of the craft with the help of a vacuum cleaner and found his theory working. The cushion that blew up because of the air being blown inside kept the craft above the water without much effort. Also, he found that this method would require a smaller engine in comparison to other crafts.

4. How are parts of Hovercraft arranged?

The working mechanism of a hovercraft is very simple. It has two fans set up inside, in which one fan is blowing air at the back, known as Rear Fan, just like the fan of an airplane. The other fan is in the middle of the craft known as the Central Fan and is facing downwards to the base of the craft. It is blowing air into the cushion that is placed beneath the craft. The Drive Shaft, Engine, and Gearbox are placed between these two fans.

There are finger-like projections or ridges at the bottom of the craft that touches the cushion. Also, a hovercraft consists of a small room called a Cockpit for captains or pilots. Some space is also made available for carrying the goods or people on the craft. This is how does hovercraft work and operate. (See Why Do Babies Cry on Airplanes?)

5. How do Hovercrafts work?

The two powerful fans working in two different directions keep the hovercraft moving. The central fan blowing the air inside the cushion helps to keep the craft above the water surface. While the Rear Fan blowing air at the back helps to push the craft forward. Moreover, the power of the engine is maintained by transmission and the use of gearboxes. It turns the engine power by ninety degrees. Thus, this explains how do hovercraft work.

6. What is it made of?

A number of heavy engines along with powerful gas turbines are used in big hovercrafts like military crafts. The body of crafts known as Hull is made with highly durable aluminum which is lightweight and rust-proof. Composite materials like fiberglass are used to make the body of small hovercrafts.

7. What are the types of Hovercrafts?

Depending upon the type of air direction they use, hovercrafts can be of three types:

  • The first one is created by Sir Christopher Sydney Cockerell. These hovercrafts are based on his theory known as Open Plenum. But with the advancement in technology, the open plenum method got outdated.
  • Now, two other methods Peripheral Jet and Flexible Skirt are used to create hovercrafts.

This answers the query of how does hovercraft work. (See also How fast can a Bullet Travel?)

8. What is Peripheral Jet?

Peripheral Jet does not have finger-like skirt projections between the craft and cushion. This craft is capable of lifting very quickly and with less power.

9. What is a Flexible Skirt?

Flexible Skirt is based on the same principle as that of Peripheral Jet but it has more finger-like projections made out of rubber material. They are much flexible and can adjust themself according to the surface on which the hovercraft is traveling. They also make the ride smoother. However, modern-day hovercrafts are made up of the combination of Peripheral jet and Flexible skirt.

10. What are its uses?

Now that you know how does hovercraft work, you must be thinking about its use. Hovercrafts can work well in places that are isolated or have the scalene infrastructure. Though they can be used for a variety of purposes, they are mostly used for rescue operations and military purposes. Passenger and Commercial hovercrafts provide transportation facilities to the people and goods. Rescue and medical aid hovercrafts are used during the time of natural calamities. They help in transporting the people to hospitals quickly and easily. Military Hovercrafts can be used to provide transport facilities to the troops, logistics, etc. in the forces. (See How Did the “Unsinkable” Titanic Sink?)

11. Which company provides Hovercraft services?

The Isle of Wight Hovercraft is the last remaining company that is offering hovercraft services to people. It provides transportation facilities to passengers traveling between Ryde and Southsea in Portsmouth. It also has rail and road connections on both sides of the ports.

How does hovercraft work in such harsh circumstances and saves people all around the world deserves appreciation. However, nowadays, hovercrafts are not used because they are not fuel-efficient.

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