A new maritime craft uses wing-in-ground technology to allow passengers to travel by flying just above sea-water.
Innovations in the field of transportation hold out the promise of land-based transportation becoming not only faster, but also cheaper and more efficient. We have already seen ideas for a futuristic hyperloop that can transport hotel rooms from city to city and the creation of a driverless and emission-free truck. Now, a new type of craft could revolutionize the maritime transport industry. In island nations such as Indonesia, the Philippines and the Caribbean, maritime transportation is the most common way to travel between islands, but it can be both time consuming and costly. To address this need, Singapore-based Wigetworks has designed the Airfish – a ship that hovers just above the water and can reach a top speed of 180 km/hour – more than twice the speed of a ferry.
The Airfish uses wing-in-ground (WIG) technology first developed in Russia and Germany in the 1960s, allowing the craft to be supported by a field of high-pressure between its wings and the water surface. In effect, the craft glides above the water on a cushion of air. Travelling above the water surface also means there’s no hydrodynamic drag, making the craft much more fuel-efficient. As the craft is only a few feet above the surface at all times, altitude sickness and motion sea-sickness are both minimized, and in the event of an engine failure, the craft simply glides to a stop on the water. A model that seats eight passengers, the Airfish 8, is currently in the trial phase, and is slated to be available in the second half of 2018.
In the future, Wigetworks hopes to offer lower-priced craft and to explore hybridization, automization and craft that can carry up to 40 passengers. Wigetworks hopes that, in addition to island-hopping, the Airfish could be used for transporting crew to and from off-shore oil platforms, coast guards, oil spill recovery, resort transfers, and cargo transport. What other uses might there be for a ship that ‘flies’ on the ocean?
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