If you like science fiction movies, you’ve probably seen plenty of interesting space ships that hover and float about like magic. But did you know that there are real vehicles that can hover and travel over both water and land?
It’s true! We call these special vehicles hovercrafts. Hovercrafts are also sometimes called air-cushion vehicles or ACVs. Hovercrafts are known as amphibious vehicles. That means they can travel over both land and water.
Although hovercrafts can travel on both land and water, they’re more like airplanes than either boats or cars. They hover in the air on a cushion of pressurized air. Although it might sound like magic, it’s actually pure — and fairly simple — science!
Hovercrafts have engines that power fans. These fans blow air underneath the hovercraft to cause it to lift off of the ground. Depending upon the size of the hovercraft and the power of the engines, hovercrafts can lift from six inches to over seven feet into the air.
To help hovercraft engines work most efficiently, hovercrafts have skirts made of fabric surrounding their bases. These skirts help to keep the pressurized air from escaping.
To move, hovercrafts also need engine power to produce an air current that will push it forward. Some hovercrafts use two separate engines: one for thrust (forward motion), and one to create the pressurized air cushion. Other hovercrafts have one larger engine that produces a single air stream that is then split between thrust and cushion as needed.
Today, hovercrafts are used in many parts of the world for a variety of reasons. Because of their amphibious nature, hovercrafts are often used by military organizations to transport people and equipment over rough terrain. They can also be used to transport large groups of people across bodies of water rather than using boats.
The scientific principles behind hovercrafts were first demonstrated by Sir Christopher Cockerell in 1955. He built a crude object out of a cat food can, a coffee can, and some kitchen scales. He also came up with the name “hovercraft.”