How do personal hovercraft differ from commercial, rescue, racing or military hovercraft?
Personal Hovercrafts – Hovercraft are weight sensitive vehicles, so to win a race, you need a very light weight hovercraft – these tend to be made from very thin glass fibre so may not last so long.
You may think that power overcomes weight, but no; more powerful engines are heavier than less powerful engines, and the extra power may not compensate for the additional weight penalty. If you consider the analogy of people, fat people eat more and have more calories to burn, but thin blokes can run faster than fat blokes, even though they have less fuel (calories) on board.
Personal hovercraft are generally more durable than race hovercraft because they need to last a season or two. Commercial hovercraft have to last even longer, so tend to be made from other materials, not paper thin glass fibre. The Hov Pod hovercraft for example, is made from HDPE or (High Density Polyethylene) or Carbon Fibre / Kevlar Composites – they cost more but are more durable so last far longer than race hybrid GRP hovercraft.
Rescue hovercraft need sufficient power to lift 3 or more people – the driver, the medic and the victim or two. All hovercraft create a pressure wave referred to as HUMP – getting over HUMP is difficult for the little hovercraft with smaller engines, so for rescue and commercial applications, it is essential to drill down to the detail – what weight or payload can be carried when starting on-water?
Glass fibre looks great, but smaller hobbyist models are totally unsuitable to military applications – military folk need hovercraft to be durable, strong, highly buoyant, and available with a number of options not found on little hovercraft.