The development of the hovercraft began in the early 20th century, when engineers began experimenting with the idea of using a cushion of air to lift and propel a vehicle. In the 1930s, Finnish inventor Toivo J. Kaario built a prototype air-cushion vehicle that was able to travel over both land and water. However, it wasn’t until the 1950s that the first practical hovercraft was developed.

In 1956, British engineer Christopher Cockerell built the first hovercraft prototype. He discovered that by blowing air across a surface, he could create a cushion of air that would lift the vehicle off the ground. Cockerell’s design used a skirt made of rubberized fabric to contain the cushion of air and prevent it from escaping.

The Beginning

The first successful hovercraft or ACV (Air Cushion Vehicle) was the SR-N1, built by Cockerell and his team in 1959. The SR-N1 was capable of carrying up to 38 passengers and could travel at speeds of up to 35 knots. The SR-N1 was an immediate success, and the concept of the hovercraft quickly gained popularity around the world.

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In the 1960s and 1970s, hovercraft were widely used in a variety of applications, including military transport, commercial transportation, and recreational use. However, as new technologies and vehicles were developed, the popularity of these air filled craft declined somewhat.

Lighter than air. Charles Fletcher’s Glidemobile. Out of this world.

Commercial hovercraft are vehicles designed for civilian use and are used for a variety of purposes, including transportation, tourism, and search and rescue operations. These vehicles utilise air cushion technology, similar to military hovercraft, to travel over a variety of surfaces, including water, sand, ice, and mud.

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One of the most common uses for commercial use is transportation. They are often used to transport people and goods in areas where traditional watercraft or vehicles cannot operate. For example, hovercraft can travel over shallow water, wetlands, and other areas where boats or cars cannot go. This makes them ideal for transportation in remote or hard-to-reach areas.

Commercial Hovercraft

Commercial hovercraft are also used for tourism purposes, particularly in coastal areas or in areas with unique natural features. Tourists can ride on the craft to see wildlife, explore remote areas, or simply enjoy the thrill of riding on an air cushion vehicle.

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In addition to transportation and tourism, commercial ACVs are also used for search and rescue operations. They can travel over a variety of surfaces, making them useful for rescue operations in areas with difficult terrain. These could be flooded areas or remote wilderness.

Commercial hovercraft come in a variety of sizes and designs, from small one-person craft to large passenger or cargo transport vehicles. Some designs are optimized for speed, while others prioritize stability and comfort.

The Hoverlloyd SR.N4 Commercial Hovercraft in Ramsgate Kent in 1973.

One of the most well-known manufacturers of commercial hovercraft is the British company Griffon Hoverwork, which produces a range of models for both civilian and military use. Other companies, such as Neoteric Hovercraft and Hov Pod, also produce a range of commercial craft for various applications.

While commercial hovercraft have many advantages over traditional watercraft and vehicles, there are also some disadvantages to consider. They can be expensive to purchase and maintain, and require specialized training for operators. In addition, they can be affected by weather conditions such as high winds, which can limit their use in certain environments.

Despite these limitations, commercial hovercraft are a valuable asset for a variety of applications, particularly in areas with difficult terrain or where traditional watercraft or vehicles cannot operate. Their ability to travel over a variety of surfaces and their versatility make them an ideal choice for transportation, tourism, and search and rescue operations.

Military Use

The military has continued to use hovercraft for a variety of purposes. One of the advantages of ACVs is their ability to travel over difficult terrain, such as swamps and marshes, making them useful in military operations. They are also used for reconnaissance operations in coastal areas and for transporting troops and equipment across water.

A Russian Navy Zubr class ACV. It can carry up to 80 tonnes of cargo.

The world’s largest hovercraft is the Russian-made Zubr-class hovercraft. The Zubr can carry up to 500 troops or 80 tons of cargo and is used by the Russian military for amphibious assault operations. The Zubr is also capable of traveling over ice and can break through ice up to 1 meter thick.

They can also travel over ice and snow, making them useful in arctic environments. This ability to travel over a wide range of surfaces makes them a versatile and valuable asset to military forces.

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Military ACVs also have the advantage of being able to rapidly deploy troops and equipment. They can travel at high speeds over water, allowing them to quickly reach shorelines or other areas where troops need to be deployed. They can also carry large amounts of equipment, making them useful for transporting heavy vehicles and supplies.

In addition, the military craft can be used for amphibious assault operations. They can travel over water and then transition onto land, allowing troops to quickly and efficiently storm beaches and other coastal areas. This has been demonstrated in a number of conflicts, including the Falklands War in 1982, where British ACVs were used to transport troops and supplies.

Stealth Hovercraft?

Military hovercraft also have the advantage of being relatively stealthy. Unlike boats or other vehicles that create a wake and noise, hovercraft glide over the water silently, making them more difficult to detect. This can be useful for covert operations or for surprise attacks.

A U.S. Navy LCAC Hovercraft. Looking like something from a sci-fi movie.

Another advantage of military hovercraft is their ability to operate in shallow water. They can travel through water as shallow as 30 cm, which is not possible for many other types of watercraft. This makes them useful in areas with sandbars, shoals, and other obstacles.

There are several types of military hovercraft in use today. One of the most common is the LCAC (Landing Craft Air Cushion), which is used by the US Navy and Marine Corps. The LCAC is capable of carrying up to 180 tons of cargo and can transport up to 75 troops. It has a range of 200 nautical miles and can travel at speeds of up to 50 knots.

The Royal Navy

The Royal Navy also operates hovercraft, including the Griffon 2000TD, which is capable of carrying up to 38 troops or 6 tons of cargo. This is somewhat smaller than the Russian Zubr-class ACV, which can carry up to 500 troops or 80 tons of cargo.

In addition to these military hovercraft, there are also a number of civilian hovercraft in use by coast guards, search and rescue organisations, and other groups. These vehicles are often similar in design to military hovercraft, but are used for civilian purposes.

In Britain the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, the RNLI, continue to use hovercrafts in their fleet.

While military ACVs have many advantages, there are also some disadvantages to consider. For example, they can be expensive to build and maintain, and require specialized training for operators. They can also be vulnerable to enemy fire, as the air cushion can be punctured by bullets or other projectiles.

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In addition, hovercraft can be affected by weather conditions such as high winds, which can make them more difficult to operate. This can limit their use in certain environments or during certain times of year.

Overall, military ACVs are a valuable asset for military forces around the world. They offer a number of advantages over other types of vehicles, including their ability to travel over difficult terrain, rapidly deploy troops and equipment, and operate in shallow water. While there are some disadvantages to consider, the benefits of military hovercraft make them a valuable addition to any military force.

Are Hovercraft Safe?

Hovercraft can be safe when they are operated properly and maintained well. Safety is always a concern with any type of vehicle. Hovercraft are no exception. However, improvements in technology and safety systems have made hovercraft much safer to operate than they were in the past.

For example, modern ACVs are equipped with safety features such as backup engines, redundant systems, and electronic stability control.

Today, hovercraft are still in use, although their popularity has declined somewhat in recent years due mainly to cost.

The hovercraft has a rich history and has played an important role in transportation and military operations. Hovercraft are still in use today and continue to be an important tool in a variety of applications.