How they work

What's the difference between a hovercraft and a boat?


Firstly, a hovercraft isn't in the water - its on the water. On full cushion it barely brushes the surface it travels over. The major differences between a hovercraft and a boat are:

  • Hovercraft can travel over almost any type of solid, semi-solid or liquid surface (land, water, mud, etc).
  • Hovercraft don't need moorings or anchorages or any special shore facilities (piers, ramps, etc) - they just need a sloping bank to land on (and they don;t cause damage to the bank either).
  • When operating over water, a hovercrat pilot doesn't have to worry about hitting underwater objects (rocks, sandbanks, etc) - if there is nothing visible above the surface then there it is no problem for a hovercraft!
  • Hovercraft are much more fuel efficient than a boat - they typically consume 1/2 to 1/4 of the fuel of a comparable sized boat at the same speed.
  • Hovercraft don't pollute the water with exhaust gases as the engine exhuast is directed to atmosphere and dispersed quickly.  Boats (in particular 2-stroke outboards, pump burnt and unburnt hydrocarbons directly into the water.
  • Hovercraft can be operated in environmentally sensitive areas such as inter-tidall nature reserves, mud estuaries and in areas with delicate vegetation or wildlife without causing any  significant damage to the surface.

A hovercraft (or "air cushion vehicle") is a machine that "hovers" on a cushion of air above the surface it is traveling over.

A hovercraft is unlike any other vehicle! Because it hovers on a cushion of air there is no friction to keep it in stuck in one place.

More techincal information on how hovercraft work

A hovercraft works by doing two things at the same time - it pumps air under the craft hull to create an air cushion to lift the craft off of the surface (the lift system) and it also pushes air out of the back to make it move forward (the thrust system).

Additional information