Hovercraft transport people and their stuff across ice, grass, swamp, water, and land. Also known as the Air Cushioned Vehicle (ACV), these machines use air to greatly reduce the sliding friction between the bottom of the vehicle (the skirt) and the ground. This is a great example of how lubrication works – most people think of oil as the only way to reduce sliding friction, but gases work well if done right.

In this case, the readily-available air is shoved downward by the pressure inside of balloon. This air flows down through the nozzle and out the bottom, under the CD, lifting it slightly as it goes and creating a thin layer for the CD to float on.

Although this particular hovercraft only has a ‘hovering’ option, I’m sure you can quickly figure out how to add a ‘thruster’ to make it zoom down the table! (Hint – you will need to add a second balloon!)

Here’s what you need:

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113 Responses to “Simple Hovercraft”

  1. I’ll have Tonya connect with you – your account may not be set up right if you’re able to leave comments but not see the videos.

  2. Charityloveskids017 says:

    The videos are not working?

  3. sticklerfam says:

    You said in the little intro above the video that you can make it zoom across the table and you gave us a hint, add another balloon. can you tell me where to put it or how to do it?

  4. Yes that’s right! Really any balloon will work. You just want one large enough so that it will hold enough air for the experiment.

  5. Wait is a “7-9” balloon a normal balloon ( like ones bought for party’s) ?

  6. It can be. The instructions are for how to build the hovercraft. What you’d like to test is totally up to you. You can try different balloons, different surfaces, different times of day for outside air temperature, etc. Just make sure you are only changing one thing at a time (one variable)!

  7. As long as it’s smooth on the bottom surface it will work.

  8. Tamara Howard says:

    Just 1 question. What if the disc isn’t too old? Would the thing still move?

  9. Tamara Howard says:

    For this experiment is the floor the variable?

  10. That’s a great question – I am not sure if they will be too big or not, so I would totally try it and see!

  11. Tamara Howard says:

    Would punch balloons work?

  12. Tamara Howard says:

    Do you mean like potholes?

  13. No – you just need something to make a very small hole in the cap for the air to leak out.