A patent-pending control system will also make the vehicle more like a car to drive than existing craft, with simple forward, backwards, and sideways controls.
“We have incorporated two side-thrust ports at the front end of the hovercraft,” says Mercier. “The thrust coming out of those ports is vectored by control surfaces, or vanes, so using simple mechanisms you can pivot those vanes and basically steer the hovercraft like you would with two front wheels.”
Each thruster can also be controlled independently, so you can point one forward and one backwards to make a very sharp turn.
“You go beyond what a car can do, because you have more freedom of motion,” he says. That should make the vehicle much easier to control than existing hovercraft, which can be difficult to maneuver. Braking in current craft, for example, involves doing a 180 degree turn and going full thrust backwards. Mercier’s craft will be able to direct thrust from both forward ports to brake, although it still will not exactly stop on a dime.
He envisages that the body of the vehicle will be built using existing marine and aerospace materials, such as plywood for the core and composites for the body panels. Construction will be similar to a boat, which gives inherent safety over water. The propulsion systems will be held in aluminum framing.
The company hopes it can produce all of this for $20,000. But there is still a long way to go. Although Mercier says he already has running prototypes of the mechanical systems, the sleek high-end bodies that have caused so much excitement are so far just concept designs on a computer. And of course, there is the issue of funding.
But Mercier remains undaunted.
“I think this vehicle can really make a go at the mass market, and become a household name, rather than just an image we think of when we see a science fiction movie,” he says.
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