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AirRider hovercraft uses hybrid design


April 12, 2013

The AirRider hovercraft in snow conditions with weather canopy

The AirRider hovercraft in snow conditions with weather canopy

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Even though hovercraft have been around for over half a century, they still have an air of the future about them. They’re used in everything from sports to oil exploration, yet they still leave a lot to be desired in terms of ride and stability. Hoverworks of Parry Sound, Ontario hopes to improve matters with its AirRider hovercraft, which uses a hybrid hull and skirt design that combines the best of conventional hovercraft technologies.

The AirRider hovercraft is intended to overcome some of the weaknesses of the two most common hovercraft designs. The air cushion of a hovercraft is produced by a flexible rubber or plastic skirt that hangs down from the hull. The skirt needs to be rigid enough to hold in the air, yet flexible enough to allow the craft to negotiate uneven terrain, waves and low obstacles. This makes the choice of skirts a bit of a compromise, with the two main alternatives exhibiting distinct strengths and weaknesses.

The first is the loop skirt, which, as the name implies, encircles the hull of the craft. The compressor lift fan blows air under the hull where the loop captures it, forming a cushion and lifting the craft. It’s an efficient arrangement. The loop skirt is very good at creating and maintaining the air cushion, but on water it makes for a very bumpy ride with lots of spray and drag.

The alternative is a segmented skirt where the loop is broken up into pockets that line up to form the skirt. Each of these segments is either fed air individually or from the air cushion. These segments can collapse individually while maintaining the cushion, which makes for an easier ride with less spray and drag, but the rear segments tend to snag and tear, and the craft isn’t very stable.

According to Hoverworks, AirRider hovercrafts split the difference between the two skirts by means of a loop/segment hybrid design. The sides and stern are covered by a loop skirt and the bow has a segmented skirt. This cuts down on the spray and buffeting as the segmented bow yields to oncoming waves, while the loop provides more stability and less of a tendency to snag. Hoverworks says that the design also makes the AirRider much better than either conventional design at negotiating stony stream beds or river rapids.

The AirRider hovercraft with loop/segment sections in different colors

Intended for commercial, industrial, search and rescue, and personal use, the AirRider line of hovercrafts come in three configurations carrying one to five passengers. The hull is also a hybrid. Like many larger inflatable boats, the AirRider is a semi-rigid Inflatable made up of a five-chambered Urethane/PVC hull with solid bulkheads. Floatation foam is installed under the hull to allow the AirRider to float with the motor off for long periods of time. In combination with a special valve, the flotation foam also allows any water inside the skirt to be quickly dispelled when starting up.

Weighing from 290 to 350 kilograms (640-770 lb), the AirRider hovercrafts are powered by a 40 bhp (29.8 kW) one-liter CH1000 Kohler Command Pro V-twin 4-stroke petrol engine. On the 5-passenger model, there’s an additional 0.6-litre 20 bhp (14.9) engine to power the lifting fan. The propeller is a composite with variable forward and reverse pitch, that can quickly shift from forward to reverse to full stop. Top speed is 31 to 36 mph (50 to 58 km/h) depending on the model.

The video below shows the AirRider hovercraft in action.

Source: AirRider

About the Author
David Szondy David Szondy is a freelance writer based in Monroe, Washington. An award-winning playwright, he has contributed to Charged and iQ magazine and is the author of the website Tales of Future Past. All articles by David Szondy

Now this is a rich man's toy. I wish these were rentable at raystown dam

Willis Linn

Im not sure why hovercraft even have back fans like an air boat. I mean a built in base fan with vector thrust should be plenty to push ans steer it while keeping the cushion up as well. I would think it would improve aerodynamics not having that big fan on the back, not even mentioning the weight issue.


@yinfu99 - MASS, I think is the basic reason for the retention of the 'thrust-fan'. Hovercraft are still heavy, difficult to stop moving and difficult to steer because of all that mass essentially 'skating' in thin air.

I don't really see that 'vector thrust' could be sufficient on its own to replace the 'counter-steering' needed to prevent too much oversteer and actually send the hovercraft in the right direction.

But I could be wrong...

If I think of your 'vector thrust' as a Jetski nozzle, then one at each 'corner' might be a way to go... The rears would be larger, to provide the main thrust and steering, with the fronts giving an assist (and maybe they could be turned front-facing, to help stop..?)

Interesting idea...


At last! Someone has relized of the convenience of the inflatable hover: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iP9D73mqILg. these are 2002 hand made prototypes in Neuquen Argentina


This craft is connected with a Hoverworks craft from New Zealand. I know the thrust system well and you have complete control over the lift and direction of travel. Including reverse. - It can be moved around in its own length and if you chose it can be "control" balanced to act like a train on tracks. You don't have to slide side ways and can do U turn in its own length. This is the most advanced system in the hovercraft world and is streets ahead. Try it to believe it. I Did and was astounded. If I can ever afford it I would buy one. Note: I don't own one-- and have nothing to do with the company, but it was the most exciting fun thing I have ever tried out. Well done Air Rider -- your way ahead.


Here's a thought, could a hovercraft run on compressed air? If so, you wouldn't need a fan or propeller, just a jet.

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