October 13, 2014
Sea Tech Week 2014 conference and exhibition
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Sea Eagle Wing in ground effect craft provide 80 knotts alternatives to marine transportation industry
by Francis Teo
While conventional ships travel at less than 30 knotts, and the new Flying Ship is effectively cruising at the speed of an aircraft at around 80 knotts and above. The class of vehicles that is mentioned are popularly known as Ground Effect Vehicles, or Wing in Ground (WIG) Effect Vehicles, but could be better described as Sea Skimmers, because what makes this class of craft unique is the fact that they fly at altitudes on the order of tens of feet, or a few meters. In so doing, they take advantage of a peculiar aerodynamic principle known as the ground effect. What is also really important to realise is that these craft are boats not aircraft and in every way are controlled by Marine regulations and construction standards not aviation.
The beauty of ground effect is that a given amount of wing area produces more lift near the ground than it would at high altitude. Or in other words, the same payload can be transported with a much smaller wing, which translates directly into a smaller, lighter, and more fuel efficient craft. The principal advantage of such Sea Skimming vehicles is the ability to move massive loads in a craft with a relatively small wingspan and low aspect ratio wing with great aerodynamic efficiency. Another advantage of such a vehicle would be the ability to fly at very low altitudes, below the detection range of enemy radar.
With the High Fuel consumption and the operational cost output of the helicopter and aircraft, Sea Skimming, Wing in Ground Effect vehicles will be a darling for the Indonesia Archipelago. Aside from appealing to island-hopping executives, Chris Holloway, the manufacturer for Sea Skimming WIG craft Sea Eagle hopes to grow a market among police and customs authorities in archipelago countries. He claims the Sea Eagle uses one-fourth the fuel a helicopter needs and is much quieter.
With global community spreading further and further from the cities and onto the islands and archipelagoes, the need for fast, efficient and reliable transport has never been greater and is going to increase as time goes on. Conventional transport is either slow or expensive in our fast moving world. Sea Eagle offers an alternative that needs no infrastructure beyond a smooth beach or jetty. Also in developing countries where inter island travel and trade was difficult or impossible before, Sea Eagle offers an alternative that opens many more possibilities for trade and transport. Imagine that the Craft is able to travel from Singapore to Batam Island in 15 minutes, without the need for additional docking facilities.
As the uses and acceptance of Sea Skimming machines grows, so also will the size of craft available to the market. One of the beauties of ground Effect is that the larger the craft is the more efficient it becomes, so it is realistic to envisage that the future will see Sea Skimming ground effect craft many times bigger than aircraft to fill the niche between slow ships and expensive planes. Already craft have been built for military applications of over 500 tons. Even we at Sea Eagle have started to look at possible designs that could utilize existing shipping ports and be many times larger than existing aircraft.
The need for faster commuter transport around populated harbors has never been greater and growing. If we consider that nearly all major cities of the world are located on waterways, the market for water based transit is enormous.
As WIG effect Sea Skimming craft fill a niche between ships and aircraft, they will be able to better serve the needs of the consumers that have for too long not been able to trade to maximum effectiveness. If we consider the areas mentioned above, in particular the seafood and fresh produce, these would still be able to get to market in prime condition but a fraction of the cost making trade much more even and accessible to these primary producers.
The Sea Eagle is a Sea Skimming Wing-in-ground-effect craft, this means that it has been specially designed to operate in the Ground effect range, and to maximize the stability and fuel efficiency of this mode and to offer a platform that gives the flexibility of a Hovercraft, the speed of a Plane and fuel burn and overall cost analysis less than both.
With all the marketing advantages available for the emergence of this Wing-in-ground-effect craft, we will be seeing a new marine transportation revolution soon.
Written By Francis Teo
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