Have you ever ridden on a hovercraft? It is like gliding on a cushion of air! In fact, that's exactly what you're doing—a hovercraft is a vehicle that glides over a smooth surface on a cushion of air. Because a hovercraft can travel over flat land or water, it is an amphibious vehicle.
In this activity, you'll get to build your own mini hovercraft using a 3D printed base and a balloon.
How will different amounts of air in the balloon affect how long the hovercraft hovers?
Because a hovercraft is a vehicle that glides over a smooth surface by riding on a cushion of air, it is also called an air-cushion vehicle, or ACV. How is the air cushion made, and how does it allow the vehicle to glide over it so freely? Vents or currents of slow-moving, low-pressure air are ejected downward against the surface below the hovercraft. Modern ACVs often have propellers on top that create the air currents. These currents are pushed beneath the vehicle with the use of fans. Surrounding the base of the ACV is a flexible skirt, also called the curtain, which traps the air currents, keeping them underneath the hovercraft. The trapped air currents can create an air cushion on any smooth surface, land or water! The cushion greatly reduces friction, allowing the vehicle to glide freely over the smooth surface below.
Test the hovercraft on different surfaces. On which type of surface does it work best?
• Extra: Can you improve on this hovercraft design? Think about features of this craft that you can change, such as the construction materials, the lid's opening size, the hovercraft's shape or its size. Could you add a skirt like that used on real ACVs to better contain the air cushion?
Education hovercraft from Reg Taylor on Vimeo.