Sep 2, 2019

FIRST LEGO League students visit Hovertechnics for Hoverhouses project

Hovercraft technology can often play an important role in education – exemplified by a recent student visit to Hovertechnics. The four 5th grade students, part of the robotics team at Ann Arbor Christian School in Michigan, are participating in FIRST LEGO League, a program dedicated to helping 4th-8th graders strive to become leaders and innovators in science, technology, engineering and math.

The students entered the FIRST LEGO League “City Shaper Challenge”, which inspires students by asking, What if you could build a better world? Where would you begin?” Student teams are tasked to choose and solve a real-world problem, involving building and programming an autonomous robot.

Their mentor, Peter Chen, Professor of Computer Science at the University of Michigan, describes the students’ idea: “Their project involves hovercraft and earthquakes. Their idea is to protect buildings by making them "hover" above the ground during an earthquake, similar to how a hovercraft hovers above the ground / ice / water as it travels. They’ve built a small prototype that demonstrates their idea with a computer fan and LEGOs.”

The students named their team the Hoverheads, and titled their project “Hoverhouses”.

Hovertechnics staff welcomes the Hoverheads with their prototype Hoverhouse ...
Left to right: Robbie Sliter and Justin Peters, hovercraft builders; Duane Bourlier, Hovertechnics President; Jim Martin, assistant to the president and Hoverheads Jared, Nolan, Pascal, and Joey ...

The Hoverheads learned from their impressive research that a technique called “base isolation” has been used since the 1970s to minimize earthquake damage to buildings. This involves constructing buildings to rest on flexible bearings or pads known as base isolators, which work in a manner similar to car suspension or shock absorbers. As their presentation explains, “Current base isolation reduces acceleration by only 50%.” and “An earthquake of magnitude >7.0 occurs every 24 days.”

Their conclusion? Inspired by hovercraft, Hoverhouses are a better base isolation technique: During an earthquake, the building rises and sits on a cushion of air. This provides better isolation between the building and the ground and almost completely eliminates building acceleration during an earthquake. Earthquake early warning systems provide several seconds of advance warning to turn on the fans. Propellers keep the building from moving around while hovering.”

Hoverhouse prototypes

In their excitement about hovercraft technology, the students wanted to see how their theory translated into practice. Professor Chen says, “We were interested in visiting a hovercraft manufacturer and were glad to find that there was a prominent manufacturer right here in Michigan.” Hovertechnics was pleased to welcome the kids and help them learn about hovercraft technology …

The Hoverheads demonstrate their Hoverhouse prototype
to Hovertechnics’ personnel ...

President Duane Bourlier and his assistant Jim Martin
explain hovercraft skirts to the Hoverheads ...

President Duane Bourlier introduces the Hoverheads
to Hovertechnics hovercraft construction ...
Left to right: Jared, Nolan, Pascal, Joey and President Duane Bourlier ...

Hovertechnics’ Jim Martin lets Nolan experience hovercraft safety gear …

It’s Hoverhead Pascal’s turn to try on safety gear 

Headsets donned, (left to right) Pascal, Nolan, Jared and Joey are ready
for their first hovercraft flight …

All set to go! Jared takes flight with Hovertechnics’ Justin Peters …

Professor Peter Chen says the students thoroughly enjoyed their visit to Hovertechnics. “The kids are excited about the technology used in hovercraft, so it was a treat for them to see some real hovercraft and learn more about them,” he reports. “The highlight of our time was getting to ride in one of the hovercraft, and they learned a lot about how hovercraft are designed and manufactured. Thank you for letting us visit Hovertechnics.”

Do you think the students’ idea of using hovercraft technology to support buildings during earthquakes is unrealistic? We think you’ll change your mind when you click the link below and see how this technology has been used in a similar way …

Hovercraft technology floats 7,000+ lb. building ...

Jun 5, 2019

China’s Marine Department relies on Hovertechnics Rescue Hovercraft

Earlier this year, a Hovertechnics Hoverguard 1000 hovercraft was purchased by the Marine Department in China, to be used by the SuiNing Coast Guard in SiChuan Province for rescue operations.

Here, the hovercraft undergoes final test flights and thorough inspections before being shipped to China …

From left: Robbie Sliter, Chris Fitzgerald, Duane Bourlier and Justin Peter.

Recently, the Marines’ hovercraft was featured in emergency rescue drills conducted by the Sichuan Provincial Transportation Department and the Zigong government at the intersection of the Tuojiang and Shi Rivers. More than 200 people from 10+ aquatic emergency departments participated in the exercise ...

Closing ceremony at the conclusion of the rescue drills.
The rescue drills were conducted in order to strengthen water traffic safety and to improve the joint emergency response capacity and deployment speed of multiple rescue departments.

Rescue equipment appearing along with the showcased Hovertechnics hovercraft were drones, intelligent life buoys, underwater robots and other advanced technology.

Hovertechnics Hoverguard 1000 at rescue drill in China.

Li Liqiang, Director of the Safety and Security Department of the Bureau of Transport of the Sichuan Provincial Department of Transportation, said, “The use of these smart devices has greatly improved rescue efficiency. And some of the equipment can be used in some extreme environments.”

Hovercraft, of course, are well known for their ability to operate in extreme environments, taking first responders rapidly into areas not accessible by other vehicles.

We at Hovertechnics are honored to contribute to the speed and safety of rescue operations around the world.

Mar 5, 2017

Fire Department earns Red Cross Fire Rescue Award for hovercraft ice rescue

The Dewittville Volunteer Fire Department in Dewittville, New York has operated a Hovertechnics Hoverguard 700 rescue hovercraft since 2002. Its performance as a water and ice rescue vehicle has been so successful that it earned the department the American Red Cross Fire Rescue Award.

The recipients of the 2016 award were Dewittville Fire Chief Burl Swanson and first responder Furlow Francis. They were honored for a daring rescue operation they conducted when two ice fishermen fell through the ice on Chautauqua Lake. The fishermen were saved after Swanson and Francis deployed their hovercraft and brought the men to shore. The rescue was hailed by the Red Cross as one of the “most amazing ice rescue operations” ever to take place on Chautauqua Lake.”

Here, Swanson and Francis, with the two rescued ice fishermen safely on board, head for shore in “Hover 221”, their Hovertechnics rescue hovercraft …

Today, Swanson recalls the rescue, “We’ve made many ice water rescues, most of them with our Hoverguard 700. The most dramatic one was last March when we were able to rescue two ice fishermen from about 400 yards offshore on extremely bad ice. Without any doubt these two gentlemen would have perished without the capability of our Hover 221 to get to them in a timely manner and deliver them to the waiting EMS on the shore.”

Two area fire departments operate airboats, but the Dewittville Fire Department relies on their hovercraft for ice and water rescues. Chief Swanson says, “The hovercraft floats on air above the ice and is lighter than the airboat, which runs the risk of breaking up the ice due to the difference in weight. Our department uses Hover 221 primarily for ice water rescues as it is really at home on ice. Although there are two airboats on our lake, our hovercraft gives us the ability to stay above the ice and make a rescue without having to break through the ice to get to the victim.

In the photo below, Dewittville’s Hoverguard 700 operates at mass injury aircraft drill with a Coast Guard helicopter. Burl Swanson explains, “We helped transfer 55 victims from the crash site to shore to be sent to the hospital. We had 325 firefighters and 50 Coast Guard personnel. Hover 221 made a great showing!” ...

Why did the Dewittville Fire Department decide to buy a Hovertechnics hovercraft? “We had operated a small hovercraft for 10 years and decided to get a better unit,” Swanson says. “I found the Hovertechnics website and we purchased our Hoverguard 700 in 2002. This unit gave us the platform that we needed to perform ice water rescues on all types of ice conditions.

Below, the Dewittville crew appears with their rescue hovercraft this February at the Winter Festival Polar Plunge in Mayville, New York. Those participating could safely enjoy their event with Hover 221 standing guard … 

Chief Swanson concludes, “We are very pleased with our Hoverguard 700 and would recommend it to any Fire Department - especially one that borders a lake or body of water.”

Jan 20, 2017

Hovertechnics hovercraft rescues deer from ice on Lake Superior

Thanks to their Hovertechnics rescue hovercraft, the Alger County Sheriff’s Department was able to save the lives of a doe and her fawn that had fallen through – and were stranded on - the thin ice on Lake Superior in Munising, Michigan.

The deer were unable to stand or walk due to the fragile ice. “They were exhausted when we got out there,” said Undersheriff Steve Blank, “Had we not gone out there, there were some predators waiting, too. We had a couple of people, including the retired sheriff, who saw a couple of coyotes. But when the hovercraft went over, they ran back.”

The Alger County Sheriff’s Hovertechnics hovercraft easily crossed broken, thin ice to hover right up to the deer. Photo by Missy Mannisto.
After getting the deer back to shore, heating packs were used to warm the deer. Blank said the fawn wasn’t doing as well as the doe at first, but they both were soon able to retreat back into the woods.

Safely on shore, the deer are warmed after their ordeal in icy water. Photo by Alger County Sheriff’s Office
Alger County purchased their 4-passenger 21-foot Hovertechnics hovercraft six years ago, and it has significantly improved the department’s rescue operations. “I’d say we use it once every two weeks,” Undersheriff Blank reports, “It’s a great, great tool, especially for a department that lives on the water. We have so many people who utilize the waters around here, and we assist other departments with it, too.”

Left to right: Trooper Jeff Seaberg, DNR Officer Mark Zitnik, Deputy Ted Woodaz, Det/Lt. Matthew Waldron, and David Mannisto pose in front of the 
Alger County Sheriff's Office hovercraft after completing a rescue mission of two deer in Alger County, MI. Photo by Missy Mannisto
On the same weekend as the deer rescue, Alger County’s hovercraft was used a second time to transport workers out to Grand Island to repair a utility line that had fallen on a trail.

Feb 25, 2015

Cheboygan County Sheriff’s most effective rescue vehicle: A Hovertechnics hovercraft

The Cheboygan County Sheriff’s Department in Michigan purchased a Hovertechnics Hoverguard 800 to improve its search and rescue capabilities. Sheriff Dale Clarmont says, "We bought it because this craft was designed to actually fly over surfaces. It flies over land, ice, and open water, so we can use it during all four seasons. The reason we chose the Hovertechnics Hoverguard 800 is that it was one of the largest hovercraft manufactured at that time, so it allows us to load the entire search and rescue team into the craft, with gear.”

In the first four years that the Department has had the hovercraft, it has become a critical part of their search & rescue operations and has been credited with saving five lives so far. Two of those rescues earned Lifesaving Medals for the first responders conducting the operations.

In one of these rescues occurred when a 63-year-old man broke through the ice while snowmobiling on a lake near the mouth of the Cheboygan River. Michigan State Police Sgt. Mark Tamlyn said the man’s body temperature had quickly fallen to 89 degrees. He credited the quick response by search and rescue personnel – and the hovercraft – for saving the man’s life despite blowing snow, poor visibility, icy conditions and open water.

Had we not had the hovercraft we would have been delayed in getting to him,” Sgt. Tamlyn said, “In this situation, minutes count.”

Sheriff Clarmont added, “There was absolutely no way you could have gotten to him and saved him with any equipment other than a hovercraft … It’s a great tool for us.”

Besides its critical role as a lifesaving tool, the hovercraft also fills a secondary role in crime prevention. The hovercraft and its crew collaborate with Border Patrol units to search the Mackinac Straits for drug smugglers.

Apr 10, 2014

Hovertechnics Hovercraft plays important role in Maine search & rescue operations

The Maine Marine Patrol and the Maine Warden Service are well-equipped for rescue operations on inland and coastal waters with a Hovertechnics hovercraft that will be shared by the two agencies. The both cover similar areas - ice-bound waterways and harbors, flooding rivers, coastal flats and areas difficult to reach with any vehicle other than a hovercraft. And they often work together in search & rescue operations.

Sergeant Ron Dunham of the Maine Warden Service says, "The hovercraft is like no snowmobile, ATV or watercraft." 

The first responders describe the benefits of their hovercraft during their pilot training ...

The hovercraft was purchased through grants from the Outdoor Heritage Fund and Maine Emergency Management Agency. Marine Patrol Pilot Steven Ingram says, "It's important to have this type of technology. If this hovercraft saves one life, it has paid for itself for the rest of its existence."
The Maine Marine Patrol / Maine Warden Service Hovertechnics hovercraft glides easily over thin, broken ice.
An article in the Penobscot Bay Pilot details how the capabilities of the hovercraft to go where other vehicles cannot gives it important advantages in rescue operations:

THIN ICE: Hovercraft can skim over thin ice and pull a drowning victim into the craft and return to safety in a few minutes.

FLOODING: Hovercraft are critical when when residential areas are flooded and it is almost impossible to use boats to travel down flooded streets because underwater obstacles like fences, fallen trees, submerged walls and vehicles damage boat propellers and put them out of action. A hovercraft is completely unaffected by underwater obstacles and is able to go over any water depth.

SHALLOW WATER: Hovercraft can be used all year round along coastlines where large boats cannot operate due to shallow water conditions. A hovercraft can navigate easily from water to land, over mudflats, marshes, beach areas and along muddy or sandy shorelines.