07 May, 2012

How do airboats compare to hovercraft?

Unlike airboats, hovercraft are flying machines that travel above the surface on a bubble of air so they don’t create a wake on water. Airboats are flat-bottomed boats with a large propeller and their entire weight rests on the surface, creating a wake.  Airboats usually require a boat dock for launching; hovercraft do not.

Airboats are limited to relatively smooth water because their hulls have low gunwales which can be easily swamped. Airboats have minimum positive flotation, where hovercraft have quite a lot - up to 1 1/2 times their weight. This enables hovercraft to operate safely on swiftwater. Here, first responders from the U.S. Air Force practice swiftwater rescue techniques in a Neoteric hovercraft …

Both are amphibious vehicles but hovercraft, since they ride on a cushion of air, are better on dry terrain. Airboats travel over mud, grass, sand, pavement, gravel, or other dry surfaces by sliding on their plastic-covered hulls.

The airboat’s tall propeller also limits its use in areas with overhead obstructions, which are often found in flood rescue operations. An airboat’s propeller usually runs close to the speed of sound and generates considerably more noise than a hovercraft. Airboats can consume up to three times more energy than hovercraft, so they use more fuel.

Hovercraft can be safer than airboats in ice rescue operations. For example, a news article from earlier this year, Dive team set for ice rescues stated,  “Emergency personnel practiced rescuing victims who have fallen through ice by getting as close as they can with airboats - too close and the boat will push the ice and crush the victim - and then, with insulated, waterproof suits on and an attached rope, swimming out and bringing the victim back." 

Of course, every situation is different, but hovercraft have the ability to fly on top of thin or broken ice while an airboat cannot, and hovercraft often break the ice into small pieces that are of no danger to the victim. Hovercraft can also approach the victim directly, keeping rescuers out of the water.

An example of an airboat's tall propeller and high center of gravity.
The airboat's high center of gravity makes them prone to flipping over. However, their large propeller produces a lot of thrust, enabling airboats to push through tall vegetation where a hovercraft cannot.

Finally, airboats are generally less maneuverable than hovercraft, particularly Neoteric craft whose patented reverse thrust system allows them to brake and otherwise outmaneuver every other hovercraft on the market. Reverse thrust is essential for hovering on ice and swiftwater. Airboat control comes from propeller thrust and airflow across its rudders, so it takes full power to achieve real control. In contrast, a hovercraft with reverse thrust is more easily controlled, no matter how much power is applied.Operating an airboat at full power is a bit like running a bucking bronco! But flying a hovercraft with reverse thrust, even at full power, is nothing like fighting a monster - it's more like dancing with a ballerina.

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03 May, 2012

Can I build a hovercraft from a kit?

All you need is a Neoteric partially assembled hovercraft kit and you can easily build your own hovercraft. This is the only production hovercraft available in do-it-yourself kits. Not only does a DIY hovercraft save you 25% off the price of a manufactured hovercraft, it gives you a great project to enjoy with family or friends.

The kit hovercraft is easy to assemble because much of the work has already been completed at the factory and the kits come with full hovercraft assembly instructions, including a DVD. It takes about 40 hours to finish and all you need are basic workshop skills, a work area about the size of a one-car garage, and common hand tools such as an electric drill, a pop rivet gun, a set of screwdrivers and sets of open-ended and allen wrenches.

Our customers have built personal hovercraft, as well as commercial and rescue hovercraft, from our partially assembled kits. A few examples …

Dirk Lohry built his recreational hovercraft from a Neoteric kit. He lives on a lake in South Dakota and his hovercraft lets him fly for the first time on the lake in winter over thin and broken ice. Read Dirk’s comments and see a photo gallery of his experience building a hovercraft ...

The Butler Group Co. Ltd. in Phuket, Thailand built their commercial hovercraft from a kit ...

Another commercial hovercraft builder is the Winous Point Shooting Club. The Club is a part of the Winous Point Marsh Conservancy on the shores of Lake Erie in Point Clinton, Ohio and is the oldest duck hunting club in America. Their hovercraft is used to transport hunters over water, mud, sand and thin ice to suitable hunting spots. Follow along as they assemble the hovercraft

You can learn more about what’s involved in building a hovercraft and see step-by-step photo galleries from our customers in the Neoteric Hovercraft HoverGarage.

Questions about building a hovercraft? Just leave a comment!