Whatever Happened to the Hovercraft?

If you were to take a snapshot of the 1960s, you would probably think that by the year 2012 everyone would be driving around in their own hovercraft. Rail trains would be done away with and in their place would be silent, efficient and speedy hover trains. People would abandon four-wheel vehicles and replace them with their own personal hovercraft. These were common perceptions as hovercraft technology was introduced to society via movies and the scientific community.

Today, however, hovercrafts are not the normal mode of transportation. In fact, hovercrafts are used rarely and most people have never actually seen a hovercraft with their own eyes. Below are some of the reasons why this is the case.

High Cost

The cost of constructing a hovercraft has been a major stumbling block to the growth and development of this technology. The cost involved in building a hovercraft is typically higher than constructing more traditional means of transportation. In the past, hovercrafts were used primarily as large ferry boats. These large hover crafts were very expensive to construct and operate. For ferries, this meant that the cost was transferred to the passengers.

Poor Usage

Competition was also a major problem area for hovercraft technology. For example, the use of hovercrafts for ferries was very popular in the United Kingdom for many years. Hovercrafts often carried people across the English Channel from the United Kingdom to France. The cost of operating the hover ferries caused tickets to be quite expensive. With other options available to them, passengers simply chose more affordable transportation options.

Today, only one of the five original hover ferries is still in operation. Lack of use and not enough traveled routes makes it impracticable to continue running a full complement of hover ferries.

Is the Technology Dead?

While hovercrafts use hasn’t been on the grand or commercial scale that people felt the technology was destined for back in the 1960s or 1970s, the fact is that this type of technology is not dead. If you do a search for hovercrafts online, you’ll find that there are many new avenues that people are taking with hovercraft technology.

The idea used to be that hovercrafts would replace the average motor vehicle, but interest in that has declined. There have been forays into automotive style hovercrafts, however. Companies like Sea Air, Hov Pod and Universal Hovercraft all have continued developing hovercraft technology for practical everyday use.

You’re not likely to see mass-produced hover trains or large-scale hovercrafts for water usage today, but you can often find hovercraft kits that allow you to design and build functional hovercrafts from everyday items. There are also custom hovercrafts that are created to look like cars or boats. The downside is that these custom hovercrafts are typically very expensive and are well outside the price range for the average consumer.

It’s apparent that hovercraft technology never reached the heights that people thought it would be based on science fiction movies, science and the media. As to whether it could grow in the future greatly depends upon the continued advances in this technology and its efficiency and affordability. Whatever the case may be, hovercraft technology has survived its infancy stage and it will be interesting to see how it progresses in the years to come.

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