It seems to be a pattern in the early decades of technological advances that the military would quickly become interested in the ways in which new ideas could be used by the army, navy or air force. This has happened to some extent in the hovercraft industry, but not so much as expected. Large passenger craft have been used, and are still being developed, but the big growth of air cushioned vehicle use is in the leisure industry. The first use of small hovercraft was as a golf caddie, which was probably intended to allow a vehicle to over over pristine greens without damaging the grass. Other activities include racing, search and rescue and also family fun!
Racing hovercraft represent fun in the extreme, and many racers wouldn't be involved in the sport without some element of danger, which the sport delivers aplenty. Imagine speeding along at up to 80kms an hour and the only thing between you and the ground is a cushion of air. There are no tires to grip the road when you brake, and no propeller or rudder in the water to rapidly slow you down like a boat. Change of direction is by handlebar steering, much like you would find on motor bike or quad bike, but this only has a limited effect. To get full impact, it's necessary to throw the body to one side to turn corners!
Search and rescue is a very interesting development for the industry, because they can go where other vehicles can't, quite obviously. A boat is limited to the water, and wheeled vehicles can easily get bogged down in slush, mud or wet sand. For reaching accident victims in areas with wet marsh land, for example, the hovercraft can't be beat. It can carry up to six people easily and can settle down on any surface, making it an ideal vehicle for reaching disaster areas fast. Whole fleet of air cushioned craft are ow in use in isolated places in Canada and also Australia.
Leisure and fun is probably the biggest growth area for the industry as a whole, particularly as people are looking for new thrills and experiences. A four seat hovercraft is not that expensive, something like 10 000 dollars, so well within the reach of many families and ideal of you have kids. The biggest question raised by someone buying such a vehilcle is - are hovercraft safe? Safety is at a premium for this kind of buyer, and once again the industry has responded with a very safe product.
The author does not allow comments to this entry