Foamboard Makes For A Light Hovercraft

If we are to believe many science fiction movies, one day throngs of people wearing skin-tight silver spandex jumpsuits will be riding around on hovercraft. Hovercraft haven’t really taken the world by storm, but [Fitim-Halimi] built his own model version and shows you how he did it. You can see the little craft moving in the video below.

In theory, a hovercraft is pretty simple, but in practice they are not as easy as they look. For one thing, you need a lot of air to fill the plenum chamber to get lift. That’s usually a noisy operation. The solution? In this case, a hairdryer gave up its motor for the cause. In addition, once floating on a near-frictionless cushion of air, you have to actually move without contacting the ground. Like many real hovercraft, this design uses another fan to push it along. You can see in the video that the designer uses Jedi hand motions to control the vehicle.

The good news is the motors just go one way, so there is no need for an H-bridge to reverse the motors. A simple FET switch turns them on or off. There is a servo motor to move a rudder that redirects the thrust fan’s air output.

If you want to try this yourself, there are schematics and source code on GitHub. We wondered how hard it would be to put a sensor on board and make an interesting twist on a line following robot, or maybe prevent it from hitting walls. Perhaps a reverse thrust fan would be useful, too. In fact, two extra thrust fans, each 120 degrees apart, could give you interesting options.

We liked the idea of foamboard for the body to reduce weight. We’ve seen meat packing trays used before. If you didn’t read our post on the history of the hovercraft, you might be surprised how old the idea really is. We keep waiting for our winged hovercraft.

3 thoughts on “Foamboard Makes For A Light Hovercraft

  1. You know, these might be more practical for rovers and bots these days as batteries have got lighter and motors higher power. As a kid I made a few meat tray and slot car motor versions that could barely carry their own batteries.

    I would suggest maybe a nautical “Kitchen rudder” arrangement might work well for braking. Which is also similar to reverse thrust arrangements on some jets.

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