Do we know enough about hovercraft????
You must be very familiar with the aircrafts and the seaplanes. They have a specialty of their own. We know about them because they are the most common ones. Their popularity has led to the development of so many of their own kind. But scientists have not confined themselves to only these discoveries. A quest is always there to invent something different, economical and unique. Hovercraft is one of such distinguished inventions among mankind. With the advent of time, this invention is gaining its popularity but not many will know about its implication.
Hovercraft- as soon as we hear about this very name, most of us are confused that it must be something related to some flying vehicle. Of course , even if we break the word, hover and craft…..that would remind us to something related to the aircraft family. But that does not justifies its classification. A hovercraft is a vehicle that hovers over a cushion of air by gliding beneath a smooth surface. the smooth surface can be anything…..sea, ground , ice etc. So, in a way they are surface dependent. However, the amazing fact is that they never touch the ground while in motion. As it is not exactly in contact with the surface when it is in motion, it is in fact a virtual frictionless machine .
This machine was invented by Christopher Cockerell in 1956. It is also known as “Air Cushioning Vehicle (ACV)” or “Ground Effect Vehicle”.
So, how does it work????
When talking about its working, let’s start reviewing all its part. The main components are:
The base of the vehicle is filled with air. It is this air which acts as a cushion between the vehicle and the surface. Air is continuously leaking from the hovercraft. The air leakage is sealed by wrapping a flexible gasket called skirt around the bottom base of the hovercraft. The low pressure vented air is ejected against the surface which reduces friction and allows for smooth gliding. They also have a fan attached which supplies air and maintains excess pressure.
Although many of us would relate this vehicle with boats and ships, but the working principle is more relevant with respect to aircraft. Similar to an aircraft’s aerodynamic principle, the lift and thrust produced are almost the same. It is the pressurized air on the base that causes lift. The propeller mounted on the hovercraft provides the thrust needed to move it forward. There is also rudder fitted to steer the vehicle.
How is it advantageous than the other vehicles?
Very less power is required as the friction is comparatively less. They can be single powered engine or more.
They can travel on any flat surface whether it is land or water.
It causes less damage to the surface through which it passes. They exert very less pressure and hardly touches grounds, thus they minimize threat of any kind.
Is it really that good???
They have become one of the most versatile and economical inventions till date. It is widely used for commercial as well as non commercial purpose. They are capable of carrying huge mass of cargoes. Because they use very less power and can run on any smooth surface, their utilization are increasing far more widely.
Amazing fact about Hovercraft: Most of the them are designed and manufactured by the aircraft manufacturers although this vehicle does not fly.