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Sports car-inspired design aims to bring hovercraft into the 21st century

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August 1, 2012

The Mercier-Jones hovercraft design was inspired by luxury sports cars

The Mercier-Jones hovercraft design was inspired by luxury sports cars

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Frustrated with what they see as stagnation in the evolution of hovercraft design over recent decades, cousins Michael Mercier and Chris Jones have teamed up in an effort to bring the personal hovercraft into the 21st century. As well as a futuristic, streamlined look inspired by high-end sports cars, the Mercier-Jones concept also purports to be quieter, easier to maneuver, and more environmentally friendly than existing craft.

Maneuverability – or lack thereof – has always been one of the big downsides of hovercraft, but the Mercier-Jones team claim their patent-pending directional control system will enable steering and braking ability similar to that of a car. The front, side-mounted fans are said to provide fine tuned control in forward, lateral and reverse directions, with independent control over each side enabling advanced maneuvering capabilities.

The patent-pending directional control system is designed to enable steering and braking a...

Taking inspiration from the marine, automotive and aerospace industries, the hovercraft will be constructed using lightweight materials including carbon fiber, aluminum, fiberglass and marine plywood. But by using existing technologies and fabrication methods, they aim to price their entry-level hovercraft at under US$20,000.

The craft would be a hybrid, powered by a gasoline engine and electric motor, the latter increasing efficiency and reducing air and noise pollution levels so that it could be piloted without the need for earplugs.

The Mercier-Jones hovercraft front view

To raise funds to allow them to construct and test a number of prototypes, Mercier and Jones have turned to crowd-funding site indiegogo, where pledges range from $1, which will entitle you to a ride in one of the first hovercraft, up to $15,000, which will secure (one of three) pre-production models. They are hoping to raise $50,000 by August 22, but the project is off to a slow start with just over $1,000 pledged at the time of publication.

If things gather momentum and they reach their goal, Mercier and Jones plan to have the hovercraft built and test flights underway by May 2013.

The Mercier-Jones video pitch can be viewed below.

Source: Mercier-Jones, indiegogo

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag.   All articles by Darren Quick
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23 Comments

I fail to see how an electromotive system will be more efficient than just having the engine turning the properly sized blowers directly.

The propulsion system doesn't look efficient at all.

Slowburn
1st August, 2012 @ 01:23 am PDT

Useless unless on water as the dirt spray will just come up and into the cockpit and onto anyone standing within 30-50 or so feet!!

And try to move one of these on water without the air lift and likely ruin it as the drag is so high.

I built a fairly good one with a very experienced hovercrafter/builder and was surprised how useless they were except the few places where they shine like swamps, shallow water, etc little else can go.

What we really need are ground effect trains and Wing In Ground Effect/WIGE/WIG flying boats.

jerryd
1st August, 2012 @ 07:41 am PDT

Sounds about as likely as this other pie-in-the-sky concept.

http://news.discovery.com/autos/vw-hovercraft-brings-us-one-step-closer-to-the-jetsons-110615.html

I suspect the two boys are being a little naive. There are any number of small personal hovercraft and In-Ground-Effect craft available, most already proven and in operation. Still, good luck to them, specially if they can do it for $20k!

Mike Hallett
1st August, 2012 @ 08:49 am PDT

not sure where the hate is coming from.

A: it has a cushion. This keeps spray and dirt from coming up into the cockpit. Proven tech, been done for a LONG time. LCAC's give a bit of spray, but then they're hundreds of tons and need a LOT of air inflating their cushion. . . for small ones, not so much.

B: a hybrid means the electric motors will run at need. It looks (from sketches and pics) like the main hover-prop is powered by the motor and the maneuvering props are run by electrics. It looks like a nice idea.

I've seen them on grass, pavement, dry lake beds (sand), etc. and they go well. Their main problem is maneuverability - which this is trying to address. . .

socalboomer
1st August, 2012 @ 10:50 am PDT

First insurmountable problem... sudden stops. Every car needs to be able to stop in a hurry. Turning is an issue too.

warren52nz
1st August, 2012 @ 01:43 pm PDT

@warren52nz Where's the brake pedal on my boat then?

christopher
1st August, 2012 @ 07:31 pm PDT

This could work but not with any electrics which require at least 4 car size battery's for twin 28 Lb electric motors (e-Tec) Plus the generator of equal or more hp output than the motors! Electrics on flying things are a non starter for any useful range because of the weight penalty. If it was all gas motors it might work with very highly loaded props, but like all hovercraft the prop noise will make it unacceptable near populated areas. It should be outlawed to promote any untried prop designed craft as "Quieter" when they have offered no reason for that attribute. When the noise problem is solved Hovercraft will become popular and sales will drive innovative designs.

David Carambat
1st August, 2012 @ 08:46 pm PDT

Make it look like a Star Wars landspeeder and they'll have a bunch of orders.

Gregg Eshelman
1st August, 2012 @ 09:30 pm PDT

Looks good, great idea, the only change I would make is to have a vertical fan in the back. Make it variable pitch so it could increase both forward speed and, reverse thrust for slowing down faster.

Billy Brooks
1st August, 2012 @ 10:00 pm PDT

re; warren52nz

Deflate the cushion. screeeeech.

Slowburn
2nd August, 2012 @ 12:30 am PDT

christopher - August 1, 2012 @ 07:31 pm PDT

said @warren52nz "Where's the brake pedal on my boat then?.."

Very good point Christopher.

Just use the same approach as on the boat - throw out the anchor!

Mark Eastaugh
2nd August, 2012 @ 04:13 am PDT

nice video and design. however, none of the tech. is new and therefore not patent material. as with any car or boat model it can be copyrighted though. seriously, ducted fans and thrust vectoring have been around for so long a patent application is laughable. i think they got most of their ideas from RC craft and R. Q. Riley designs. it's only the exterior design that is unique. but nice job on that. it seems a lot of new high-end marine performance designs are trying to incorporate sports car styling and such. very bond-ish! nice, i think. :)

Joe M. Wesson
2nd August, 2012 @ 05:34 am PDT

At the price a good investment for the first generation they will hold their first issue status in the future and appreciate in value. With the improvements to follow this looks like a foundational car company for the 21st century. Ground floor opportunities are rare and this tech will take in the rebuilt and redesigned cities of this century. Do you see how quickly the cities of the world have adopted latest tech and transformed their appearance and complexity overnight? This one looks like a winner

Anton Christopher McInerney
2nd August, 2012 @ 07:13 pm PDT

I smell a scam. Just watch the video. If these guys are engineers trying to build a better hovercraft, the terrible editing quality of their video suggest poor technical skills, yet the infomercial style sales pitch was pretty good. Never trust a good sales man that lacks technical skills, unless you want to get conned.

AnOld BlackMarble
3rd August, 2012 @ 11:13 am PDT

Great innovation for something so old and boring. I have to disagree with "AnOld BlackMarble" I think if the video were too flashy I would be more skeptical. Their expertise is not in video editing and cinematography its in engineering. Keep up the work hope to see one soon.

Mbizzle
3rd August, 2012 @ 01:56 pm PDT

How can it be 'environmentally friendly' when the battery charger/generator still runs on gasoline and spews toxic fumes and still needs water polluting lubricating oil to run?

One gallon of motor oil can contaminate one MILLION gallons of water.

And chemical batteries? They're toxic, from manufacturing down to the recycling processes which takes a lot more energy for them to be produced in the first place and the ones fits this particular application can explode.

With this kind of hybrid you get the the ineffiency and weight penalty of an infernal combustion engine PLUS the low energy density storage and chemical ineffiency of batteries. Great. Unfortunately these people haven't done any thorough research using Google so I wouldn't give them serious thoughts of ever succeeding.

SpaceBagels
3rd August, 2012 @ 07:18 pm PDT

Terrific proposal !! I admire your efforts, You are

however slightly behind Moller progress but the

hovercraft is undoubtably coming. Call it:

The Wheeless Automobile. I prefer the

SEV format with enough thrust and lifting

surfaces, to actually fly out of ground effect.

At speed, it may be able to hold a 3D lane,

and most likely, that regulatory infrastructure

would be available to military and LE only at first.

I envision a 400K price tag when/if such could

be offered to the public.

Mitch Slagghorn
8th August, 2012 @ 09:00 pm PDT

@David, The noise could be countered using destructive wave technology

Mitch Slagghorn
8th August, 2012 @ 09:36 pm PDT

Thanks for the article, Darren! I really appreciate you taking the time to understand our design and share it with the web. And thanks to everyone for your comments and feedback (positive and negative). The Mercier-Jones hovercraft is going to be a reality, and we are hoping to make it available to everyone as soon as next summer. As builds and testing progress, you will see how incredible this vehicle really is. Its going to be awesome!

Mike Mercier
13th August, 2012 @ 08:07 am PDT

Please keep me in informed of progress, are you looking for investors?

Martin Brook
19th October, 2012 @ 11:23 pm PDT

Hi Martin Brook,

We are still looking for investors. Please e-mail me at info@mercier-jones.com and visit mercier-jones.com for more information.

-Michael Mercier

CEO and Co-founder, Mercier-Jones

Mike Mercier
29th October, 2012 @ 12:30 pm PDT

Best. Price. Ever.

Zayed Rayhan
23rd August, 2013 @ 10:23 am PDT

The hovercraft community is pretty small, and the industry manufacturing them even smaller. So it's been very frustrating to watch the hype surrounding the Mercier-Jones hovercraft which has been created in Chicago and has secured so many column inches of newsprint over the last year or two.

It's fair to say, it looks very striking, and the manufacturers have clearly spent their money on the design, styling and marketing, which has landed them huge amounts of coverage in the media. Mercier-Jones modestly claim the aesthetic inspiration of high end sports cars like Bugatti Veyrons & Audi R8's and make some incredible claims as to its performance and how their product will revolutionise an 'old-fashioned' industry. This is 'the future of personal transportation' apparently and it's amazing new system of steering paves the way for a 'street- legal' version… oh please, its vectored thrust, it's not new, it doesn’t work and the day will never come when one of these things drives legally down the road in a civilized country.

They claim 'hybrid technology' - Ah! All those batteries will explain why - at 400kgs plus - it's far too heavy for its size, leading to an unrealistic skirt pressure which means, it quite simply cannot work - these guys might be geniuses for all I know, but they can’t defeat physics.

My hobby - away from building recreational and small commercial hovercraft - is racing them. I race in Formula 2 - my craft weighs half what the Mercier-Jones does, and has three times the horsepower. I reckon its good for 60mph. You should see what the 200kg Formula 1's can do with their 200bhp engines. Take a look here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F6YHz6YwlBo and you'll get the idea!

I doubt the bespoke, lightweight 200bhp hovercraft in this video are achieving much above 70mph, yet the Mercier Jones is faster than these apparently! "With top speeds estimated at over 80 MPH and acceleration that will rival it’s supercar cousins, Mercier-Jones hopes to handily beat the hovercraft land-speed record this summer of 56.25 mph and go after the water-speed record of 86.5 mph." It's rather like claiming your Dacia Duster will lap Spa Francochamps faster than Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes.

Unfortunately, Mercier-Jones aren’t the first company to flood the hovercraft market with ridiculous claims The industry seems to have attracted lots of bullsh****rs over the years. They tend to come and go, usually leaving an investor or two considerably poorer. But I have to say, this is certainly the most far-fetched, unrealistic and misleading set of claims I've seen in my 30 years involvement with hovercraft. I'm sure their intentions are honest and this is a huge misunderstanding on my behalf.

One of the outrageous claims that Mercier-Jones make is that their hovercraft works.

And that's an outrageous claim because…. it doesn’t! Look here for their test video….

http://www.independenttribune.com/news/concord/video_60c6a380-1ffb-11e3-8213-0019bb30f31a.html

There it is in a pond on the end of a rope (maybe that’s what they mean when they claim it's fly-by-wire?) in a big ball of spray hovering no more than one inch off the ground! It's a fair way from this to their 87mph ambitions, that hovercraft does not produce a thrust ratio "which is slightly better than the supersonic B-2 Stealth Spirit" I've got to ask, what exactly are they celebrating at the end? That nobody drowned?

They claim the first craft will be delivered in May 2014, really? Who would witness this and splash out $75,000 on something which obviously doesn’t work? I've only ever seen one real one on film - everything else has been computer generated images.

You may well have picked up on the fact that I'm angry about this and may ask why. Well, it's not jealousy, (though I wouldn’t mind my company getting 1/10th the press coverage they've managed!) but I know just how much damage the Mercier Jones may cause the industry with their high profile shenanigans. As secretary of the 'Hovercraft Manufacturers Association' (HMA) I'm very keen to mature and develop this nascent industry. Together with our some of our members, I've spent two years dealing with the UK Authorities to develop a new 'Hovercraft Code of Practice' and we're constantly lobbying government organisations and commercial operators who've had bad experiences with small hovercraft - and are firmly of the opinion that they simply don’t work. The Mercier Jones is simply going to further that opinion - negatively impacting on honest manufacturers and operators who are trying to develop their own businesses.

What I don’t know is what the aim of this whole project is - they've already attracted some funding from the IndieGoGo website - is the ambition to attract more, whilst they draw a decent wage? The problem is that plenty of people are excited by the idea of a hovercraft (when I finally invent a hoverboard, I'll be richer than Bill Gates) and I've seen some rather naïve investors and overexcited buyers jump in without first checking their facts.

One thing's for sure, the Mercier Jones doesn't work - yet they claim they’re taking orders. And that worries me.

http://www.prweb.com/releases/mercier-jones/hovercraft/prweb11664961.htm

Michael Mercier, Chris Jones - I'm calling you out to protect my industry and the sport I love. My company manufactures and sells over 100 of those 'old fashioned' hovercraft each year, and I'm happy to take on any dynamic challenge you can come up with. Flying Fish hovercraft www.flyingfishhovercraft.co.uk steer accurately, hover a foot above the ground, do 40mph and work with up to four people on board - you can see them on the internet cruising on rivers and the sea, beaches, ice, snow, sand, mud and estuaries. Can you provide a single piece of evidence that any of your claims are justified?

Because, if your company is ever going to achieve 100 hovercraft sales a year, one thing is pretty important.

They need to work.

Russ Pullen
20th March, 2014 @ 03:47 am PDT
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