July 12, 2007 Since the last time
we caught up with the Kiwis behind Sealegs
, the amphibious boat
that can drive itself straight down into the water, worldwide sales have taken off. The eye-catching vehicle is a fully functional boat that drops "landing gear" much like a small plane to drive out of the water and overland at up to 6mph (10kph). Sealegs showcased their latest model in Australia recently at the Melbourne Boat Show - a 6.1 metre aluminium D-tube version that's essentially a ruggedized rigid inflatable - a bit heavier and around AUD$10K (US$8,600) more expensive than its predecessor, but it's a complete turnkey amphibious solution with extra armor for avid adventurers. A drive on trailer is now also available that adds high speed land transport to the equation.
April 3, 2007 The promise of robust, affordable and extremely practical commercial amphibian vehicles for domestic purposes moved much closer this week with the news that Lockheed Martin and Gibbs Technologies have agreed to develop a family of high speed amphibious vehicles designed specifically for military operations. The resultant vehicles will advance Gibbs technologies and almost certainly increase production to far more cost-efficient levels. The militarized High Speed Amphibians (HSAs) will use technology from a fleet of prototype amphibious vehicles developed by Gibbs Technologies for consumer use, including the Gibbs Aquada,
a three-person sports car, Gibbs Humdinga
, a four-wheel military vehicle, and Gibbs Quadski
, an amphibious all terrain vehicle. Gibbs' technology enables amphibians to travel at speeds over 45 mph on water and over 100 mph on land - and to transition from water-to-land or land-to-water in five seconds. These features provide a much needed capability for military littoral, riverine and special operations.
March 5, 2007 When Bombardier Aerospace received the Batefuegos de oro award from the Asociacion para la Promocion de Actividades Socioculturales (APAS) for the "Greatest technological advancement in firefighting" last December, the jury described the company’s range-topping SuperScooper 415 as the “most efficient tool for the aerial combat of forest fires.” The 415 is the latest in a line of Bombardier amphibious aircraft which began with the CL-215 in the 1960s, though its capabilities are awesome compared to its predecessors. Though it only has a top speed of 359 km/h (224 mph), in an average mission of 11 kilometres (six nautical miles) distance from water to fire, it can complete nine drops within an hour, delivering 55,233 litres (14,589 U.S. gallons). Also known as the Superscooper aicraft, is a high-wing, all-metal amphibious aircraft designed specifically for aerial firefighting. It features a four-compartment, four-door water tank system that can hold 6137 litres (1621 US gallons) of water/foam mixture and refills its tanks by skimming the surface of any suitable body of water.
With waterfront property highly prized the world over, we see the amphibious market as one of the next great opportunities – the people with the greatest disposable income will have the greatest need for amphibians. At the same time, new techniques, technologies and materials are yielding a new breed of amphibious craft that are seemingly omnipotent. Most amphibious craft to date have been biased towards performance on land (such as the Splash
) or water (such as the Aerosan
or Sealegs here
, and here
). Only the Quadski
seems to have a balance of performance on both, and it is limited to one, perhaps two people. Now a new technology threatens to seriously disrupt this marketplace. Fast Track Amphibian
has entered the development phase for a product line of all-terrain amphibious vehicles using tracks as their means of propulsion on both water and land. Nearly all other amphibians comprise two drive systems – the FastTrack does it all with one, gaining a significant advantage in weight. The patent-pending technology that enables the tracks to work as the sole means of high-speed propulsion on water is unique. It enables a vehicle to “get out of the hole, over the hump and on to the plane from dead in the water. Videos of what this means in the real world can be found here
. FastTrack equipped vehicles can start, stop and cruise on water like a boat as well as traverse diverse terrain, from ice and snow to swamps, deep mud, mountains and deserts - all at very high speeds. The first technology demonstrator can achieve 39 mph on water and 55 mph on land, all in comfort thanks to the air shocks and massive suspension system, which can be retracted or extended to suit the circumstance. The technology demonstrator carries six people at high-speed almost anywhere, giving it seemingly limitless opportunity in the areas of recreation, utility, search and rescue, ship-to-shore and military operations. Potential recreational uses include sports and racing, hunting and fishing, wilderness touring and camping. This vehicle will take you up a muddy hill in the forest better than a motorcycle, take swamp and tundra and ice and snow in its stride and enter and exit the water in almost any conditions … it is a genuine all terrain vehicle and transitions from one medium to another seamlessly. It makes very soft, comfortable, water entries at 40 mph and similarly smooth egresses at 20 mph. The first vehicles the company produces for non-military customers will be hand built and custom made for those who can afford to be the first owners of this unique machine. These vehicles will have aggressive styling, two or five place plush seating and 300 plus horsepower for speeds of 60 mph on water and 80 mph on land. More videos are available here, showing the FastTrack 1 driving down a country road
, running on powder snow
, pulling two water skiers
, on the plane with tracks down
and tracks up
, a ramp entry into water at over 40 mph
, and watch how easily it crosses this river
. This short video shows the beastie doing 37 mph on water
November 15, 2006 Last week yet another successful crossing of the English Channel was made, this time by two Dutton S2 Commander amphibians which made the journey in 7 hours and 5 minutes travelling from Dover (UK) to Calais (France). The attempt fell well short of the Sealegs amphibious boat record of 43 minutes, and the Gibbs Aquada’s amphibious car record
of one hour, 40 minutes but there are a few special attributes that should be considered. For starters, the Suzuki-based Dutton S2
is fully road registrable, has true 4WD capabilities, comes in petrol or diesel engine, right or left drive, and costs less than US$50,000 – it’s your genuine budget, works-out-of-the-box amphibian. Secondly, there was almost no planning involved and the crossing was done in less-than-ideal conditions to draw attention to the plight of a wildfowl reserve (wildfowl being amphibious creatures is the connection) and in ideal conditions a time of better than five hours could be expected. With 90 percent of the world's population living close to the water, amphibians make a lot of sense.
November 15, 2006 Amphibious vehicle manufacturers Sealegs has unveiled a new amphibious rescue boat aimed at search and rescue roles with government agencies, fire departments and civil defence forces. The 6 metre Amphibious Rescue Craft (ARC) is constructed of marine grade aluminium for demanding field deployment applications. The Sealegs ARC has a base price of NZ$89,000 (US$58,850) and made its debut at the Big Boys Toys show in the company’s native New Zealand last week. With international demand for the company’s unique product now accounting for 80% of production, a new production facility is being readied to increase supply by a factor of four.
July 27, 2006 The English channel is without doubt the world’s busiest waterway, even before the raft of record attempts we have seen for amphibious vehicles in recent times. Yet another amphibious vehicle took to the waters this week, and although the outright amphibious vehicle record remained intact, and the amphibious car record also remained unscathed, there’s a new record for hydrofoil amphibians which has been set by Rinspeed and its outrageous Splash concept car.
June 19, 2006 It was only a matter of time really – Gibbs Technologies’ High Speed Amphibian (HSA) technology has wowed the world with the Aquada sports car
, Humdinga AWD
amphibians so sooner or later it was bound to come under the scrutiny of the most technologically adventurous fighting force on the planet. Today it was announced that Gibbs has won a US Department of Defence (DOD) Foreign Comparative Test contract to evaluate its existing HSA technology for military purposes. Founder Alan Gibbs said of winning the contract, “it’s a major milestone for the company because we have solved a problem which has beset every major General since Alexander the Great.”
Alan Gibb's Aquada
high speed amphibious vehicles have been making the headlines for the last few years, partly because they work, partly because they have compelling feature sets and partly because the Aquada has set a few records, most notably in the hands of Sir Richard Branson
. Now there's a new affordable Gibbs amphibian on the way that instantly becomes one of the most desirable recreational vehicles on the planet - it's both a quadbike and a jet ski and converts from one guise to the other at the touch of a button in under five seconds, using the 140 bhp motor to reach 50 mph (72km/h) on both land and water. The design offers a new class of recreational vehicle, along with a range of capabilities that make it ideal for life saving clubs, search and rescue, military, emergency services and aid workers who will be able to reach areas and people no two or four wheel drive vehicle could reach. Gibbs Technologies intends to license the design and technology for the Quadski and is seeking expressions of interest.
January 24, 2006 The United States Defense Acquisition Board
has approved the Landing Helicopter Assault (LHA)-Replacement amphibious assault ship program to enter system development and demonstration (SDD) phase. The Northrop Grumman LHA(R) will be the U.S. Navy's newest multifunctional and most versatile, amphibious assault ship, incorporating enhanced aviation capabilities centred around the STOVL F-35B Joint Strike Fighter and the V-22 tilt-rotor Osprey. The LHA(R) will be a variant of the gas-turbine powered LHD 8. This longer and wider ship will provide increased aviation capability, vehicle lift, cargo magazine capacity, better survivability, increased habitability standards and greater service life margins.