Hovercraft Plane?

[Rudy Heeman] has been working in his garage on what we may consider a new class of vehicle. It’s a hovercraft —  but it also has wings.

That’s right, you drive it on ground, water, and you can even take flight with it! However, it’s far from a new idea. After doing some digging it appears the first type of this vehicle was actually tested back in 1996 by Universal Hovercraft – a quick peruse of their site reveals you can even buy your own kits to make one! Regardless of where it came from, or who made one first, it’s a brilliantly fun concept, and would be a blast to fly. Oh and you don’t even need a pilot’s license, it’s considered a boat and follows the same rules and regulations for boating.

Stick around after the break to see one in action! Now all we need to do is figure out how to combine one of these with a Delorean Hovercraft!

If you’re wondering how much one of these will cost you, [Rudy] has plans to sell his for around $13,000USD, which we have to admit, doesn’t sound half bad! It certainly beats shelling out ~$100,000 for a water jet pack!

[via Hacked Gadgets]

49 thoughts on “Hovercraft Plane?

  1. Soviets build these from mid 80′s as Super fast landing and transport crafts. They were called the Lun-class ekranoplan and travelled around 550 km/h.

  2. Ground effect vehicles have been around since the 1920′s. Sadly they have never caught on. Lots of people have tried ( see wikipedia ) but none have made a really successful vehicle. Maybe now is the time!

  3. It’s a WIG (wing in ground) or Ground Effect Vehicle, or Ekranoplane(sp?) if you’re russian. A very efficient form of flight dependant on an area of high pressure created between the ground and underside of the wing. Often observed in sea birds that fly long distances and when landing aircraft they refuse to go down due to the extra lift created from the ground effect.

    1. funny thing about WIG – it’s not “extra” – it’s actually absence-of-loss due to wingtip vortices (which are blocked at low altitudes)

  4. sorry to be a party pooper, but nothing that new…
    The concept of Wing in Ground (WIG) crafts was already known like 50 years ago, probably most famous vehicle was the Caspian Sea Monster (KM) build by the Russians.
    Concepts like this are out there for a while (ask your favorite search provider for the term “hoverwing”). Another impressive concept was the Boing Pelican… But there are a lot other crafts out there and others under development (in Russia, Germany, Asia and the US).
    Sadly those crafts strugle on problems with stability like pitchups and Phugoid (longer period) oscillations and need pitch stabilization. Maybe one could come up with an WIGshield for stabilizing those crafts ;-)

      1. You-re right, the KM was/is not a hovercraft, but I’m quite sure, the this UH utilizes the hover craft party only for slow speed/take off to reduce the power for reaching take off speed. During flare mode there should be no big influence from the air cushion under the skirt.

        1. Yeah, well nobody ever had a ground-effect plane that was also a hovercraft before! Except the actual hovercraft. I think. You get the awesomeness of both vehicles together, you travel over ground, water, or a few feet of air! Don’t need to worry about a hard landing ruining the floats / wheels on your landing gear.

          And hovercraft / planes propel the same way anyway, a big fan pushing air backwards. They have so much in common. Seems like an obvious idea to stick (specially designed) wings on a hovercraft to give it jumping ability. Surprised nobody’s done it before, I bet a lot of hovercrafters will be trying it out now. Flying at 10 feet looks like more fun than flying at 10,000 feet.

    1. It is a ground effect vehicle however if you watched the video you would notice it has the ability to fly much higher than 3 or 4 feet off the surface.

    1. I thought so too at first, but I can’t tell if it is just camera angle. Ground effect works to an altitude roughly equal to the wingspan.

      1. (dreams of ludicrous wingspans, hovercrafting over the town…)

        Shame Howard Hughes’ brain melted, imagine aeroplanes the size of town-centres, orbiting the town and country gently yet mightily. Imagine the engine rooms!

    1. Yes indeed, but theirs look ugly and clunky to me, so I can understand why somebody would like to try to improve on their concept.

      1. Universal Hovercraft sounds like poor sports (and bad writers) with their press release “Flying Hovercraft Man Stealing Credit.” This video is 3 1/2 years old anyway, and it does not appear that Heeman has stolen Universal’s booming business, or that he has even tried to market it.

        1. You wouldn’t think the flying hovercraft business was so cutthroat and hungry for attention. Apparently the Oscars have nothing on viciousness compared to the Hovvies.

  5. Air Cushions have been used in some ground effect vehicles much longer than 14 years ago. Universal Hovercraft should know this if they have any knowledge in this area. They aer certainly not the first or even the most successful. The concept came in to reduce the horrific amounts of power WIG need to get off the water in the first place. Look up drag hump if you want to know the physics behind why. It’s a problem WIG share with seaplanes which they share much heritage with.

  6. It looks great, but it is effectively an enlarged lawn mower that flies around at head height…. I can’t possibly see anything going wrong.

  7. Ground effect vehicles are pretty neat – I ran across this video of aerospace engineer John Shuster a while ago on one of my google binges:

    He’s discussing and showing off some models similar to the X-113, which is a different wing shape, but lends itself more easily to models for those of us without $13K or the space.

    1. Spoke too soon. Originally based on work by Alexander Lippisch (the man behind the delta wing) in the 1950′s to 70′s. Come to think of it, John mentioned it in the video.

  8. Ok,
    Go back slightly further. Damaged bombers during WWII used the ground surface effect to make it back to ARF bases when they could no longer remain airborne. If you can find a old copy of Omni or maybe it was Playboy you might find an add selling kits for this type of craft, the big difference were the wings. A “T” shaped pole with extended from the body of the craft then they used a nylon canvas that could be hooked to the body and to each end of the pole. Now you having paper thin wings reducing the overall weight . You could actually reduce motor size as well. Leaving you more weight and structure to put into the body and nose which takes most of the punishment during take offs and landing. Oh, the pole “wings” were detachable from the body for easy transport. It could actually fit into a boat trailer. The company was a one or two man shop in California back in the 70′s. However the Russians are the true masters on this technology and have been for decades. NASA sent teams over just to study with Russian engineers just to jump start American projects.

  9. Being a boater I am keenly aware of how much resistance there is in the water, and that is why the new America’s Cup boats rely on foils to reduce resistance and provide lift. WIGs are also called flying boats and in some aspects are like amphibious planes. Personally I would like to see retractable hydrofoils instead of a hovercraft with wings.

    1. Except that it is a hovercraft. Watch the video. It uses the hovercraft principle at a low speed (cushion of air) and switches to the ground effect provided by the wings after a certain speed is reached.

  10. Just wondering, did he ever research in stability of such kind of vehicles/vessels?
    Making the GEV in garage and not following the known aerodynamic wing design (inverse delta, ekranoplane or tandem wings) – it’s either too brave or reckless… And taking another passenger with…

    1. It’s not like a hovercraft can capsize, and this doesn’t seem to fly any higher than you could safely fall. Especially with a big bag of air under you, I bet even an engine cut-out at maximum altitude (10 feet?) would only give you a bit of a bump.

      Besides, if you built one of those and then discovered it could be a bit dangerous, would that stop you? Even if you’d only done half the work, the thing is so amazing I couldn’t stop if I was on the path to owning one.

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