Boats of Tomorrow Without the Wait

Boats have come a long way since the simple Native American row-boats. We have seen complicated sailboats, luxurious steamers and the more recent diesel powed cruise-liners. So, what's next for the world of watercraft? How about boats that fly, or boats that sink?

Popular Mechanics has gone in search of the radically designed boats from around the world. Here are their top 5 picks.

The Hoverwing

One look at this platform and it's obvious it isn't meant solely for the water. The Hoverwing was designed by a former aeronautical engineer, who sold the plans for DIY'ers to build in their backyard. Today, the company, owned by nephew Bill Zang, offers several different design plans and 2 prebuilt crafts for both commercial and government use.

While operating at slower speeds, the boat actually skims across the surface of the water, much like an air hockey puck. However, when it reaches a critical speed, around 55mph, it breaks free from gravity and becomes airborne...sort of. Although the stubby wings are enough to get off the ground, they will not put you up to 30,000ft. The best part, no pilots license required.

Shape Shifter: Proteus

At first glance, this looks more like a oil-rig modeled after a water-skipper and surprisingly share some characteristics of the latter. As the tiny bugs move across the water, they never really have to push through it, same goes for the Proteus. Each leg rests on a set of inflatable pontoons which can flex thanks to joints positioned along the lenght of each tank. That, coupled with shock absorbing mechanisms housed in the legs make for a very comfortable ride. "You have a very shallow-draft vessel that has ocean-crossing capabilities," says chief engineer Mark Gundersen.The applications are truely endless, ranging from military search and rescue operations, to shallow water exploration.

Bladerider X8

The only parts of a boat that need to be in the water are the rudder and the centerboard, assuming you are using sails. So why does the rest need to be in the water? Good question, and one that an Australian Designer has found the answer to. The Bladerider X8 uses 2 T-shaped hydrofoils to lift the hull out of the water between speeds of 6-10knots, depending on the weight. he reduction in drag area allows for speeds of up to 25knots downwind.

"The boat is as easy to capsize as it looks, so new owners should be prepared to get wet," says Peter Becker, who owns the first Bladerider delivered to the U.S. "You're balancing on a pinhead," to which he quickly adds "piloting the craft is addicting."

M Ship M40 Sportfisher

The M40 is very unique in the fact that it's design used well known principals in a very new way. On the underside of the hull, there are 2 channels which mix air with water displaced by the hull. The result is a light foam that acts as a thin barrier between the hull and the surface of the water that effectively reduces drag and increases top speed and fuel mileage. Also, the aerated water helps to stabilize the boat during high-speed corners. The concept has been used on 8ft dinghies all the way to up to an 80ft stealth-craft for the US military. The M40 Sportfisher is the newest addition to the family and will cost you around $750,000.

The Seabreacher

PM put it best when they compared this to " an ungodly union between a dolphin and an F-16 fighter." It uses steerable "fins" to maneuver in pretty much any direction you desire, including down. The Seabreacher seats 2 adults and can hit 35knots on the surface and 17knots while submerged. "Certainly it's the fastest submersible craft out there," says Innespace co-founder Rob Innes.

The motor draws in air from a snorkel at the top of the fin, which limits the submersible capability to a few feet and only 30 seconds. When returning to the surface, the speed is enough to almost completely clear the water. You can own one for the small fee of $70,000.

All that's left to do is combine them all into a single craft capable of submerging, flying and still getting great fuel mileage.

Hat-Tip : Popular Mechanics

George Delozier
Automotive Innovations

Feb 4, 2008
by Elizabeth Valeri
Elizabeth Valeri's picture

Boats that fly?

Boats that fly? I guess that's what you call a "Hovercraft!"

Sep 11, 2008
by Anonymous


aeronautical engineers r the best