UKZN four work on ‘flying off-road vehicle’

2016-10-27 11:03
UKZN mechanical engineering students (from left) Kai Broughton, Duran Martin, Dylan Williams and Nino Wunderlin with the wing-in-ground effect hovercraft they are building.

UKZN mechanical engineering students (from left) Kai Broughton, Duran Martin, Dylan Williams and Nino Wunderlin with the wing-in-ground effect hovercraft they are building. (Supplied)

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South Africa’s first “wing-in-ground effect” hovercraft is being built by University of KwaZulu-Natal mechanical engineering students.

Four students, Kai Broughton, Nino Wunderlin, Duran Martin and Dylan Williams, are building the machine as part of their final year group project.

The project has been referred to by the group’s supervisor, Professor Glen Bright, as “a flying off-road vehicle”.

Work on the full-scale prototype began earlier this year. It will be demonstrated at the Engineering Open Day on Friday.

In a press release by UKZN, Bright said after some research, the students convinced him to adjust the project, making it a wing-in-ground effect (WIG) hovercraft.

A WIG craft is a combination of marine craft and aircraft that takes advantage of the effect experienced by an aircraft when flying close to the ground.

The ground effect is the enhanced lift and reduced drag a wing experiences when it is travelling within one wing span of the ground.

Their research led them to investigate flying hovercrafts overseas.

They added wings and a tail to a conventional hovercraft to achieve ground effect flight.

“The creation of such a vehicle in South Africa could have niche applications in a number of fields, including recreational, commercial and transportation,” said the statement.

The statement said it could also be used to reach areas that could be difficult to access, and used in the search-and-rescue field, as well as exploration or conservation. “They are faster than boats and cheaper than aircraft, and there is no need to have a flying licence to operate one of these vehicles,” said Broughton.

The aim of this prototype is to prove that ground effect flight is achievable with a hovercraft, and to show its potential.

The group were able to manufacture the prototype at a fraction of the cost of a commercially available hovercraft.

The prototype can be seen at the Unite School of Engineering Building at Howard College, UKZN on Friday.

— Witness Reporter.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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