Trash Bag And Foam Board Hovercraft Doesn’t Fail To Succeed. Or Fail.

When you think of a vehicle that can do it all- water, land, ice, snow and more- the hovercraft often comes to mind. And while they might not be ubiquitous, hovercraft catch the imagination of many a hacker just as it has for [JamesWhomsley] of [ProjectAir]. [James] has built a small, but just big enough hovercraft as you can see in the video below the break.

Starting with a small RC proof of concept, [James] tested out some of his favorite construction materials: foam board, trash bags, duct tape, and our personal favorite: hot glue! After a successful run with the radio controlled model, [James] set out to build a hovercraft big enough to carry a human.

The resulting hovercraft was definitely enough to take a human for a spin, despite still using RC airplane parts for power. Sure, there were a couple of instances of parts going flying, foamboard being shredded, and loss of control. Even so, the trash bag air skirt stayed intact, and the aforementioned damage was nothing some tape and hot glue couldn’t fix. [James] was back on the air in no time.

Of course, some of the very reasons that we don’t see hovercraft roaming the streets come up in the video, namely off-camber paths. But the build itself is quite good, and for those of us who’ve wondered what it takes to make a hovercraft, this video shows how the sausage is made.

This isn’t the first garbage bag based hovercraft, and we featured another RC/Arduino controlled version just a while back.

23 thoughts on “Trash Bag And Foam Board Hovercraft Doesn’t Fail To Succeed. Or Fail.

  1. I have to wonder about the skirt material – there must be something on the market that’s similarly available/inexpensive while still being a little tougher.

    Maybe a good nylon tarp? As I understand it, proper skirts use kevlar or similar aramid fibers – glorified nylon.

    1. Most recreational and racing hovercrafts of that size probably use a TPU coated nylon (random google example as I can’t find the supplier we used for the hovercraft built by my uni’s mechanical engineering studies association: There’s definitely no need to go to Kevlar reinforced materials.

      For something this light ground abrasion usually isn’t too much of a problem, especially if you stay away from coarse asphalt and concrete (but even then it’ll last a good while. The pressure of the skirt on the ground is basically your hovercrafts ground pressure, so very minimal). The hovercraft we built was grossly overweight but used a coated nylon similar to what I linked to above in a “finger skirt” design. (I can’t find the design geometry we used unfortunately. I could have sworn it came from the plans for Tornado, but it doesn’t seem to be in there in the version I can find.

      If you want to go heavier there’s also something like this: though a lot pricier.

  2. This sort of thing has been a middle-school science demonstration for some time using a plywood disc and using trash bag film or blue tarp for the skirt, except that leaf blowers (first gas-powered, then cordless electric) have been used as the pressure source with another for propulsion/steering if it’s in the budget. Not much for speed or looks, but certainly operational.

    1. I know pulse jets are laughably inefficient. However, I’ve always wondered if a Lockwood-Hiller valveless design with an air entrainment cowling, usually referred to as a “thrust augmenter”, would would be any good at inflating the skirt of a hovercraft. Its all about back pressure right?

      The LHV design’s thrust to weight ratio likely isn’t enough to make up for fuel inefficiency, but it would be fun to try. If you could figure out how to time the pulses you might be able to do some sound cancelling with multiple jets and baffles… or possibly make it even louder.

      Bruce Simpson was doing some interesting stuff before the New Zealand government bureaucratic despots had a panic attack and shut him down.

      1. Sounds like the kind of thing you could test drive on the back roads late at night and have your buddy follow behind to collect the air fried road kill for the celebration supper.

      2. Given that the operation depends on sustained resonance, and that would be into a downward-facing “closed” cavity, it’s likely the results (if you could get it into any kind of sustained operation) would be truly seismic as well as hilarious as the skirt puffed in time with the pulses.

      3. Hey, pulsejets are my schtick around here. Good idea though.

        If you build it, you should name it the ‘Full of eels’.

        Pulsejets are 100% efficient…at making noise and heat.

        Any problems in implementation can be solved by adding more pulsejets.

    1. If you youtube hard enough, it becomes your job apparently. I wish I had the hydraulic press channel guy’s life. Of course he still does machine shop stuff commercially instead of just filming silly content. Considering the assortment of high-speed cameras he buys, he makes bank

      1. Someone like Cleetus McFarland does even better. He brings in enough money to run a drag racing program, buy his own race track, and parts of several auto component manufacturers. Of course, now he makes money from the race track and the component manufacturers (plus his merch and admission to his car shows) In the beginning though, it all started with YouTube money.

      1. Beware the props behind you.

        The failure mode that will hurt you is: prop breaks blade, imbalanced prop breaks mount, rolls forward onto operator, removing testicles and other parts as it goes.
        Has _killed_ people in airboats and hovercraft before. Granting they’d typically have a bug motor or better for power. Propellers are dangerous.

        You need to engineer the mounts much stronger. Deliberately have the power disconnect if it breaks. Design load should be full RPM, blade missing vibration, not full power normal operation.

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