Humans can travel under their own pedal power in Steam Boat Willy, a super lightweight hovercraft. Riding on a cushion of air, Steam Boat Willy glides across smooth land surfaces and water by pedaling and driving a fan that sucks air into a balloon-like skirt beneath the hovercraft. Another propeller at the rear provides forward thrust.

Steam Boat Willy floats on an air cushion contained within a skirt made of reinforced hot-air balloon material and this allows it to pass over small waves and some roughness on the land. An 8.2ft (2.5m) two blade styrofoam/carbon fiber propeller provides forward thrust, again human-pedal powered.


The hovercraft is extremely lightweight, weighing in at around 227lbs (103kg) without the pilot, and can only be powered by an individual who can provide a high cycling power. Though lightweight pilots were considered in the original design, it has been operated by people weighing 112 - 224lb (50 - 100Kg). The design also reduces surface and air drag as much as possible so that more energy can be used for lift and forward motion.

Much of the construction uses styrofoam and Spruce (a strong but flexible wood, also used by the Wright brothers for their airplane construction) and carbon fiber. The 30 inch (0.76m) ducted lift fan blades are made from a styrofoam core and a carbon fiber outer skin, with four blades on a central hub. Many materials were leftovers from other projects or recovered from the trash (including the styrofoam landing pads).

Visit: http://steamboatwilly. org

Trevor Williams is a University of Victoria Mechanical Engineering PhD candidate specialising in renewable energy, power grid modelling and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. He has a bachelors in Aeronautical Engineering, a Masters in Management Science and over 23 years international experience in the space industry, having worked on Earth observation and telecommunications satellites. He is the author of the Eco-Geek blog.

Via:www.greenmuze. ??m

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