What Is the Purpose of Hovercraft Technology?

Read Time: 2 minutes

Yes, hovercraft are real. They’re not just science fiction, and they are pretty awesome.

Part boat, part plane, part helicopter, these amphibious vehicles can travel on land or water. A large, central fan pushes air downward, and a rubber skirt traps a cushion of air below the vehicle. The hovercraft ride on top of this air, which keeps them above the waves or ground they’re traveling over.

Propellers at the back of the craft move it forward, backward or to the side. Another method of steering involves redirecting some of the air from the downward-facing fan through horizontal pipes. The whole operation is powered by an engine, usually a gas or diesel one.

Hovercraft can vary considerably in size and, accordingly, in the amount of weight they can carry.

Yes, these vehicles are extremely cool and can be used recreationally, but they also have some practical purposes.

Oil and Gas Industry

They can be used in the oil and gas industry in a number of ways by allowing for access to areas that cannot be easily or safely accessed with other means of transportation.

Oil and gas companies can use the vehicles to survey land and find new reserves that are located in hard-to-reach places. When  outfitted with detection equipment such as magnetometers, echo sounders, and ground-penetrating radar, they are an efficient way to locate reserves. They can also be used to reach equipment that workers need to perform inspections or maintenance on.

Because hovercraft can travel over a variety of environments, including ones that boats and land vehicles can’t reach, they are extremely useful for the oil and gas industry. Whether it’s snow, ice, shallow water or fast-moving rivers, they are up to the challenge.

Wildlife Conservation

Similar to the needs of the oil and gas industry, wildlife conservation workers often need to access places that are difficult to reach by other transportation methods.

Hovercraft offer another advantage that is critical for wildlife conservation. While the vehicles allow for access to difficult-to-reach areas, they also do very little to disturb those environments.

Because they don’t actually touch the surfaces they travel over; they do not exert much pressure on them. The average craft places only .33 pounds per square inch of pressure on a surface. For comparison, the average person exerts 25 pounds per square inch when walking.

Hovercraft do not discharge any exhaust into the water and are more fuel-efficient than other means of transportation. There’s also relatively little underwater disturbance from noise and sediment disruption.

These vehicles allow conservationists to observe wildlife, collect soil samples and test water quality with minimal disturbance to the environment.

Search and Rescue

Hovercraft are critical for certain search and rescue operations. The vehicles can travel quickly over a variety of landscapes that other types of transportation can’t reach. This is important for search and rescue because often, speed is of the essence.

They are especially useful in ice and snow rescues. The cold will not damage the vehicle and hovercraft can travel over ice, snow, and water without difficulty. Some other uses include urban flooding and ocean rescue situations.

They are one of the safest methods of transport for both rescuers and the rescued in dangerous circumstances, as well as one of the quickest and most efficient.

Hovercraft are some of the lesser known but most effective and interesting modes of transportation. Their efficiency, safety, speed, and versatility make them the perfect choice for situations where other types of vehicles would have trouble operating. In addition to their recreational uses and the appeal of their uniqueness, they have many practical uses for the oil and gas industry, wildlife conservation, search and rescue operations and more.

Category: Tech

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Article by: Megan Ray Nichols

Megan Ray Nichols is a freelance science writer and science enthusiast. Her favorite subjects include astronomy and the environment. She encourages discussions in these fields. Megan is also a regular contributor to Datafloq, The Energy Collective, and David Renke’s World of Space. When she isn’t writing, Megan loves watching movies, hiking and stargazing.

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