UH - Electric Hovercraft

Universal Hovercraft - Research and Development - UH Electric Hovercraft
UH-Electric Hovercraft Development

UH Goes Green

Specifications:

Motors: 2 x 6kw, 220rpm per volt
Voltage: 42 volt nominal
Batteries: 4 x 5000mh, 11.1 volt LiPoly packs
Lift fan: 16 inch x 4-blade UH lift fan
Thrust propeller: 36 inch x 2-blade UH thrust prop, 2:1 reduction
Length: 12.5 feet
Width: 6.5 feet
Weight: Top secret
Payload: 300 lbs
Fuel mileage: 50 - 75 mpg
Cost per charge: $ .02

Universal Hovercraft - Research and Development - UH Electric Hovercraft
Don bender test flies the latest version of the electric hovercraft.

Over the past 18 months Universal Hovercraft has been operating an electric “green hovercraft” at their Mississippi River facility. This new hovercraft resembles a UH-13P but is lighter, more aerodynamic and is powered by two electric motors.

The idea for an electric hovercraft was brought up more than two years ago while working on a Navy Hoverwingâ„¢ project. When the Hoverwingâ„¢ leaves the ground the lift system can be shut off. In the future this may be accomplished by using an electric lift system. To prove the concept a prototype electric hovercraft was built to test motor configurations, electronics, efficiency and battery technology.

Universal Hovercraft - Research and Development - UH Electric Hovercraft
Bob Windt payload testing.

The prototype uses conventional model airplane motors, speed controllers, batteries and charging systems. Using off the shelf components helped keep the cost low. Both the lift motor and thrust motor are the same hp. Loading the motors with the drive system (changing ratio or adding pitch) is what determines the power output.

In the first configuration the craft was powered by three 12 volt lawn tractor batteries. The thrust motor was loaded for 2.5 horsepower while the lift motor was loaded at 1 horsepower. Performance was acceptable; 220 lb payload capability with the ability to plane in deep water from a standstill. Run time was about 8 minutes.

Universal Hovercraft - Research and Development - UH Electric Hovercraft
Bill Zang testing high speed capabilities.

In the next configuration the motors were loaded for more horsepower output. This strained the lawn tractor batteries and eventually they began to fail. Most batteries designed for starting engines do not have the ability to maintain a high amp output for extended periods. However this configuration began to show the performance capability of the hovercraft. Payload and speed increased. Run time decreased to 3 minutes.

Universal Hovercraft - Research and Development - UH Electric Hovercraft
Mike Kiester enjoys quiet flight in the electric hovercraft.

In the third configuration the batteries were upgraded from three 12 volt off the shelf tractor batteries to four 11.1 volt lithium polymer packs capable of giving the motors full voltage throughout the run time. Motor power increased because of increased voltage, payload, speed and run time also increased. Payload went up to 300 lbs maximum, speed up to 26 mph and run time (over plane speed) up to 10 minutes.

In the future the craft will again be upgraded with higher output battery packs and more heavily loaded motors. The goal is to run the craft at 12+ mph for 30 minutes.

Universal Hovercraft - Research and Development - UH Electric Hovercraft
Bob Windt and Bill Zang discuss what they will try in the next version of the electric hovercraft.




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