Introduction: Hovercraft Tutorial

Summer 2014
Introduction to Engineering Competition

Project 1: Hovercraft


Professors: Shane Johnson

Andrew Yang

Teaching Assistants: Alien Dong

Frank Xu

Jackie Zhang

Team Prometheus

Team Members: Christopher Yuan, 5133709024,

Gu Nan, 5133709166

Chen Yutian, 5133709264

Yang Yichao, 5133709211

Ye Chu’nan, 5133709271

Jul. 8th, 2014


Picture 1: The West Gate of Shanghai Jiao Tong University

The University of Michigan Shanghai Jiao Tong University Joint Institute, or commonly abbreviated to JI, is a collaboration project between the school administrations between China and the United States in order to promote mutual growth and to nurture the next generation of engineering minds for the betterment of both countries. JI is currently located at the Minhang campus of Shanghai Jiaotong University in Shanghai, China.

Competition Description



Starting Line 1

Starting Line 2

Finishing Line

Figure 1: 3-D View of Our Racing Track

The Time Trail, the Tournament, and Friendly Match were held in the lab on the 4th floor in JI building. Every team showed their excellent work done on their unique hovercrafts. Figure 1 showed our racing track. In the Time Trial, the fastest team used only 11 seconds to finish a loop compared with the slowest team using 2 minutes and 48 seconds. In the Tournament, although two against teams more or less met the accidental situation like being stuck by the obstacles, manipulators tried their best until hovercraft reached the finishing line. In the Friendly Match, several teams improved their hovercrafts overnight and one of them even defeated the winner in the Tournament. Audience cheered every time a hovercraft rushed through the finishing line.

Bulleted Rules

● Check in and have hovercraft inspected one by one before competition.

● Finish a whole loop in Time Trial within 3 minutes to get full grade.

● Only TA can touch and move the hovercraft if this is needed during the race.

● Don’t run a shortcut through the inner edges marked with red tape.

● Don’t collide with the other hovercraft deliberately during the Tournament, otherwise you will be disqualified.

Our Achievement

Our team used 28 seconds in the Time Trial and made it to the final eight in the Tournament.

Bulleted Competition Regulations

● Power supply: no more than 12V each battery

● Motor specifications: no more than 12V

● Total weight: no more than 800 grams

● Total size: no larger than 30*30*30 (cm*cm*cm)

● Central Control Circuit: Arduino series

● Function requirements: floating above the ground within 2cm; being controlled by any form of remote control; reducing friction force with any mechanical method; being able to run, change direction, and stop.

Our Hovercraft

Thrusting Fan


Iron Wire



The Base

Lifting Fan



Arduino UNO Board

Figure 2: The Placement of All Components on the Hovercraft

Our hovercraft consisted of 6 main parts, the main frame, circuit, lifting motor, thrust motor, rudders and servo, and power set. The main frame was made of EPE foam covered with water-proof nylon to provide place for components and air skirt. The lifting motor and the thrust motor were placed vertically and horizontally to provide lifting force and thrusting force. They were combined with specially designed duct to enable greater force. The rudders can turn their direction controlled by a servo through the iron wire attaching them together. The circuit consisted of Arduino board, two speed controllers and a wireless module. They can receive the wifi signal from the remoter and then control the motors and rudder through speed controllers and servo. The 1200mh power set can provide enough power for all these components with only one battery.


Figure No.




39 RMB(﹩6.40 USD)

EPE Foam *10 (30cm*40cm*3cm)


58 RMB(﹩9.50USD)

Arduino UNO Control Board


80 RMB(﹩13.11USD)

Polymer Lithium Battery

(11.1V; 2200mA; 30C; Lion Manufacturer)


38 RMB(﹩6.23USD)

Polymer Lithium Battery Charger

(for 7.4V-11.1V Batteries; Linkman Manufacturer)


175 RMB(﹩28.69USD)

Ducted Motor *2

(Model: QF2611-4500; QX-MOTOR Manufacturer)


11 RMB(﹩1.80USD)

Acrylic Board *1 (30cm*40cm*1.5mm)


9.6 RMB(﹩1.57USD)

Water-proof Nylon (0.8m*1.5m)


66 RMB(﹩10.82USD)

Speed Control Board *2

(30A; Xin Xi Da(XXD) Manufacturer)


32 RMB(﹩5.25USD)

Tieline with T-plug *4


5 RMB(﹩0.82USD)

Duct Tape


5 RMB(﹩0.82USD)

502 Glue


18 RMB(﹩2.95USD)

Dubond Line

(Pin-to-pin *40; Pin-to-hole *40)


70 RMB(﹩11.48USD)

PS 2 Controller

(Xiao Huo Ban E-mall Manufacturer)


20 RMB(﹩3.28USD)

Steering Engine

(Model: MG90S; Hui Shen Manufacturer)


5 RMB(﹩0.82USD)

Wooden Board (30cm*40cm*2mm)


20 RMB(﹩3.28USD)

Plastic Ribbon


30 RMB(﹩4.92USD)

Arduino UNO Expansion Board


1 RMB(﹩0.16USD)



5 RMB(﹩0.82USD)

Hemp Rope

Figure 3: EPE Foam Figure 4: Arduino UNO Control Board

Figure 5: Polymer Lithium Battery Figure 6: Polymer Lithium Battery Charger

Figure 7: Ducted Motor Figure 8: Acrylic Board

Figure 9: Water-proof Nylon Figure 10: Speed Control Board

Figure 11: Tieline with T-plug Figure 12: Duct Tape

Figure 13: 502 Glue Figure 14: Dubond Line (Pin-to-hole and Pin-to-pin)

Figure 15: PS 2 Controller Figure 16: Steering Engine

Figure 17: Wooden Board Figure 18: Plastic Ribbon

Figure 19: Arduino UNO Expansion Board Figure 20: Clips

Figure 21: Hemp Rope

Step 1: Step 1: Circuit Diagram

Figure 22: Connection

Way of Electronic Components on the Hovercraft

As shown in Figure 22, this is the circuit diagram of our hovercraft.

Step 2: Step 2: the Base

Figure 23:

Front View and Side View of the Base

Figure 24: The First Layer of the Base Figure 25: The Second Layer of the Base

The base of our hovercraft was composed of the board and the air splitting duct, both of which were made of EPE form. EPE foam boards were light enough to be lifted up by the motors we chose. As seen in Figure 24, the upper board was 23cm*28cm, with a hole with radius 3.5cm and center 5cm away from front edge. In Figure 25, the second layer worked as air splitting duct to direct air into skirt. Its outer ring was 17cm*22cm and its inner ring was 8cm*16cm, with 4 one-centimeter-high air outlets symmetrically distributed around the ring. Then, combine two boards together with glue as seen in Figure 23.

Step 3: Step 3: the Skirt

Step 3: The Skirt

Step 4: Step 4: Thrusting Fan

Figure 29: Duct with Six Holes on It Figure 30: Combined Motor and Duct

We chose ducted motor, which had a fan itself, to be the thrusting fan. Since the wind power should be condensed to make the driving force more powerful, we made a paperboard duct with the same radius about 2.5cm. To mount the rudders on it later, drill six holes on the duct as seen in Figure 29, so that you may use 1 to 3 rudders as you want. Fix the duct and the motor together with duct tape as seen in Figure 30.

Step 5: Step 5: Rudders and Servo

Step 5: Rudders and


Step 6: Step 6: Fixation

Figure 33: Upper

Wooden Board for Fixation Figure 34: Fixation of Servo

Figure 35: The Middle Hole for Lifting Fan Figure 36: Fixation of Thrusting fan

To mount the lifting fan, the thrusting fan, and rudders and servo on the base, we cut another wooden board as seen in Figure 33. Its size was 13cm*24cm, with a hole with radius 3.5cm and center 1cm away from front edge. The little rectangle in the bottom right corner is used to mount the servo as seen in Figure34. The hole in the middle was used to insert the lifting fan as seen in Figure 35. The big rectangle above it is used to put the thrusting fan as seen in Figure 36. The blue stuff was where to fix a battery.

Step 7: Step 7: Assembly

Figure 37: Using

Hemp Rope to Make the Whole Body More Solid

Figure 38: Connecting All the Components on the Board

Finally, fix the four layers, the upper wooden board, the upper EPE foam board, the lower EPE foam board, and the skirt with the lower wooden board together with hemp ropes as seen in Figure 37. Then, you may connect other electronic components with wires on the hovercraft as seen in Figure 38.

Step 8: Done

Figure 39: Side-View of Hovercraft Figure 40: Front-View of Hovercraft

Figure 41: Top-View of Hovercraft

Following these steps, you will probably get a fabricated hovercraft as seen in three figures showed above. Now go out and have fun with your hovercraft!