A hovercraft is a vehicle supported on a cushion of air supplied by a powered fan mounted on the craft. Hovercraft SK-5The hovercraft was invented by Christopher Cockerell in 1956. The theory behind one of the most successful inventions of the 20th century, the Hovercraft, was originally tested in 1955 using an empty KiteKat cat food tin inside a coffee tin, an industrial air blower and a pair of kitchen scales. Sir Christopher Cockerell developed the first practical hovercraft designs, these led to the first hovercraft to be produced commercially, the SRN1.
Christopher Cockerell's idea was to build a vehicle that would move over the water's surface, floating on a layer of air. This would reduce friction between the water and vehicle. To test his hypothesis, he put one a smaller can inside a larger can and used a hairdryer to blow air into them. The downward thrust produced was greater when one can was inside the other rather than air just being blown into one can.
Christopher Cockerell - Biography (information provided by NASA)
Christopher Sydney Cockerell was born in 1910. He worked for the Radio Research Company until 1935 and then for the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company from 1935 until 1951. During the war years, Christopher Cockerell worked with an elite team at Marconi to develop radar, a development which Churchill believed had a significant effect on the outcome of the Second World War, and Cockerell believed to be one of his greatest achievements. While at Marconi, Christopher Cockerell patented 36 of his ideas. Christopher Cockerell was knighted for his achievement in 1969.
Power-to-weight-to-strength - The hull of the hovercraft
The next consideration for a properly functioning hovercraft is the power-to-weight-to-strength ratio, which affects lift, propulsion and handling as well.This deals with the structural strength of the raft to be light enough to be lifted by the air cushion created underneath, yet strong enough to carry the weight of the engine, its passengers or payload. More information can be found on this site http://leisure-hovercraft.com
Air cushion vehicle hull construction is more closely based on aviation rather than marine constructions for the simple reason that aviation hulls are a combination of strength and lightness as opposed to strength as a priority. Although wood and plywood are often used, many hovercraft hull structures are made of aluminum (aluminium) skin, welded or riveted onto an aluminum web or frame. Enclosed spaces are sealed to provide airtight compartments for natural buoyancy.