Hovercraft Ground Effects
- A hovercraft does not have wheels, skids or treads to help propel it across any surface it traverses. Hovercraft rely on an air cushion generated by fans forcing air down from the undercarriage to the ground. There is a skirt around the hovercraft to hold the air beneath the hovercraft to support it above the ground. Propulsion is provided by fans that push air horizontally in the opposite direction of travel.
Ground Effect Definition
- Ground effect refers to a fixed-wing vehicle's ability to use an air cushion to fly close to the ground. The air cushion is generated between the bottom of the fixed wing and the ground. This air cushion is used by bush pilots during soft-field takeoffs to lift the aircraft off the ground at a slower speed than normal. The flight in ground effect protects the aircraft from potholes, rocks and other obstructions common to unpaved runways.
Wing in Ground Effect
- The wing in ground effect (WIG) vehicle is a natural extension of the hovercraft. Most of the early research was done in Scandinavia in the 1940s. Serious research of WIG aircraft was done in the former Soviet Union. Researchers approached the WIG concept as a hydrofoil that was above the surface of the water. Research into WIG vehicles that operated out of ground effect did not produce any measurable benefits over conventional transport aircraft.
Current State of Hovercraft and WIG Vehicles
- Traditional hovercraft are more advanced than current WIG vehicles. Most WIG vehicle research was done by the former Soviet Union military and most of it has yet to be released. Regular hovercraft are used throughout the world for access to areas without paved roads, rail access or developed airports. The U.S. Postal Service uses hovercraft to deliver mail in remote areas. WIG vehicle research could improve the performance and utility of both hovercraft and WIG vehicles.