Using Propellers For Hovercraft - Article

Using Propellers for Hovercraft

Since the time of early aviation, propellers have provided thrust for many vehicles which are not in contact with the ground while in operation. One such vehicle is the hovercraft. Some of the advantages and disadvantages of thrust applications for propellers will be referred to as they relate to operation on a hovercraft.

Advantages Of Propellers

An advantage of propellers for hovercraft is the lower response time to changes in engine throttle. This makes the hovercraft acceleration and control more effective as the reaction time for the craft is reduced.

Another propeller advantage is lower overall weight in comparison to a comparable centrifugal blower. The resulting hovercraft can have a higher power to weight ratio for better performance.

Also for performance reasons, propellers typically develop a higher average thrust per horse power ratio. This results in  a lower power requirement to achieve the same thrust as a similar centrifugal blower.

Because a propeller can produce thrust while operating at a higher rotational speed, direct coupling to the engine can be used in some applications, reducing overall craft weight.

Disadvantages Of Propellers

However, propellers have disadvantages as well. The safety of the enclosure is an issue for craft weight. Some larger propellers will require additional strength to provide adequate protection. The extra materials needed for large guards can quickly accumulate, adding excessive weight to the craft.

Propellers also have a higher rotational speed for a given air flow than a centrifugal blower providing similar air flow. This represents another safety concern for equipment or personnel in the plane of rotation of the propeller.

For the above reasons, propeller installation often requires  a certain degree of precision. This precision installation and alignment is especially important if the propeller will be ducted to improve thrust.

Thrust from propellers is not the result of air escaping at high pressure. The lower pressure air may not be best suited for applications where high pressure is a necessity.

Conclusion

Carefully consider the specifications and operating conditions of the intended hovercraft before assuming that a propeller is needed. If weight is a primary concern, then a properly fitted propeller may work best. If higher pressure air flow is required, you may decide to use different air flow equipment.

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