For about 40 years now technology for wing in ground vehicles has
existed. Because it has been hard to commercialize not a lot of people are
aware of the existence of this technology.
The concept of less drag equals less required power is what drives this
technology. Since the vehicle takes on less drag the speed that it can travel
increases as well as the power efficiency. Boat run on this concept although
the drag they take on is on a bigger amount. The drag is eliminated by these
vehicles by running over the surface therefore eliminating any form of drag
from the ground.
The drag is eliminated by having high pressure air come in between the
contact surface and the bottom of the vehicle. This method of eliminating drag
has become to be called the aerodynamic ground effect. With this method being
used fuel efficiency has had a very noticeable increase as well as the top
speeds attainable by the vehicles.
The design of WIGs can be likened as a cross between airplanes and
hovercrafts. They are different from airplanes because they do not have the
ability to fly at high altitudes and they are different from hovercrafts
because they do not have fans that lift them above the surface. They are
similar since WIGs have wings that control the air flow around them like
airplanes and the airflow lifts them above the water surface like a hovercraft.
They are initially propelled by engines but as they develop speed the
aerodynamics drive the vehicle which leads to less power needed.
This design was researched because of the possibility of having
increased speed for water based travel as well has increasing the efficiency of
vehicles. Boats experience as much as fifty percent in losses due to friction.
The friction causes the boats to run at lower speeds and it also makes the boat
require more fuel and power to overcome the drag force.
The concept started around the 1920s when pilots noticed that at some
point during landing there was a specific altitude that their planes reacted
like they did not want to land. This was the ground effect trying to prevent
the airplane from reaching direct contact with the ground since there was a
layer of air being pushed from the wings to the bottom of the planes. Research
show that riding this layer on air required less power from the engines to
travel similar distances.
WIG designs are mostly for water travel although some designs have been
able to travel on the ground as well though the designs are far from perfect.
Other developments have led to the theory that the concept of WIGs will only be
perfect if it was done on a large scale basis meaning building a thousand tonne
vehicle to test it on. A large amount will be needed to accomplish that.
Another hindrance would be weather. The weather affects the vehicles too much
since sudden changes of wind can easily flip over a vehicle. Again theory
states that building a bigger and heavier vehicle will be able to negate the
bad effects of weather on the vehicle.
Wing in ground vehicles may be a future mode of transportation on a
commercial basis though at this point the technology is still far from perfect.
The theories that surround it are promising yet the hindrance of money for
research is a big problem.