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RC Hovercraft

A Tutorial


Introduction Forces Manoeuvring Requisite material Electronics Transmission Placement of components Drifting and Rotation Frequently faced problems


Hovercrafts operate by creating a cushion of high-pressure air between the hull of the vessel and the surface below. Typically this cushion is contained within a flexible "skirt. A propeller is used to drive the floating hovercraft forward.

Major components

Forces on a hovercraft
LIFT: The lift motor provides the force which balances the weight of the hovercraft. THRUST: The drive motor provides the force which drives the hovercraft forward. Lift and thrust can be integrated and produced through a single motor.

These forces can be provided by -Standard RC Brushless Motors -Duct-fans

Using one propeller/duct fan to provide thrust and (a) a rudder to give direction. (b) thrust vectoring to give direction. both (a) and(b) will require a servo motor each. Using two propellers/duct fans to provide thrust and using differential speeds of the two motors to provide direction.

Requisite material

Balsa wood/Coroplast/Styrofoam main structure, rudders, duct Styrofoam skirt boundaries, duct Wood motor mount, rudder structure, strengthening Adhesives Standard epoxies, Bond Tite, Bond Quick, Tape A thin inflatable polythene material Hovercraft skirt

Electronics: Battery

Lithium Polymer (LiPo) Batteries are by far the most long lasting batteries used for RC applications. Deliver twice the capacity in nearly half the weight of conventional cells. Cost and Weight: More the current and voltage rating and capacity, more is the cost and weight. Example:
Minimum Capacity: 1000mAh Configuration: 3S1P / 11.1v / 3Cell Constant Discharge: 20C Peak Discharge (10sec): 30C Pack Weight: 87g

Electronics: Servo

Voltage : 3v ~ 6v Weight: 9g Speed : 0.12 sec/60(4.8V) Torque : 1.6 kg-cm

Electronics: Brushless motors

Out runners High RPM Will require an ESC (Electronic Speed Controller) Control is via PWM (Pulse Width Modulation), following certain specifications Time Period = 20ms On time = 1 ms 2 ms

Electronics: Duct Fan

Control by PWM Simple DC Motor High Power Requirements Requires Large Current rating IC to control it. Relays can also be used.

Electronics: Motor drivers/speed controllers

The current required to drive any motor is very high Hence an appropriate motor driver is required For example L293D : max rating 1 amp L298 : max rating 2 amp Relays for high current duct fan. The current by them may not be sufficient hence in such a case high Power Transistors can also be used. ESCs are generally used to drive brushless motors.

For wireless transmission, RF communication can be used. - Buying an RF module - Hacking open an RF toy car. The following links may prove useful: (a) http://extremeelectronics.co.in/rf/rf-communication-betweenmicrocontrollers-part-i/ (b) http://extremeelectronics.co.in/avr-tutorials/rfcommunication-between-microcontrollers-part-ii/ (c) http://extremeelectronics.co.in/avr-tutorials/rfcommunication-between-microcontrollers-%e2%80%93-part-iii/

Placement of components

Placement of the components decides the CG of the vehicle The CG should be perfectly aligned with the Thrust line Since the system is afloat it will experience some rogue torque caused by this misalignment of components Too many actuators may also provide torque and add to the instability

Drifting and Rotation

The hovercraft system suffers from the inherent problem of drifting. This requires a flawless mechanical design. A good electronic system may not be able to counter all these glitches. Rotation can however be regulated by an effective control system Rotation is caused due to the principle of conservation of angular momentum

Frequently faced problems

Please keep the following aspects in mind : Hovercraft tends to drift outward at curves. Natural tendency of the hovercraft is to drift and rotate. Sufficient momentum might be required to climb up a slope which is an obstacle in the finale. At the U-turn towards the end of the arena, the hovercraft may tend to turn in one direction preferentially because of the angular momentum of the lift fan.