Science and Technology in Russian Federation

Sign in Sign up

Faster Than Ships, Cheaper Than Aircraft

... The unexpected phenomenon has been discovered by Wilbur and Orville Wright brothers, aviation pioneers. During the first awkward flights they noticed that it seemed that an aircraft picks up the air again near the ground, seriously complicating the landing. In the first half of the twentieth century, when the aircraft began to be widespread, many people faced with this effect, and it often led to accidents. Wing suddenly started to pull up the plane with the increased lift and it could have no time to come down during the landing, and during the take-off, on the contrary, soared upward, without enough speed – and fell.

The reason for these difficulties was found quickly, and the important role in this discovery was played by experiments carried by Soviet scientist Boris Yuriev – the results were published in 1923 entitled "The influence of the Earth on the aerodynamic properties of the wing". Since then we have known this phenomenon as ground effect, and it is simple enough to explain its meaning.

Basically, it is almost air cushion, but formed not by an active air forcing under the device, but by its running stream, returned from the ground or water (screen"). At ultra-low speed it slows down, and after reflection has time to come back to the bottom of the wing one more time. It further increases the pressure of the air flow which pulls up the device.


It would seem that this additional lift can be used, but the simple aerodynamic calculations showed that the effect takes place only at really low altitudes – less than a half an aerodynamic wing chord. To use screen effect during the flight at a height of at least 10 m the wing should be absurdly wide – about 20 m. Therefore, the ground effect has been regarded as extremely harmful in aviation so far.


It’s another case over the water, where screen effect can be used as advantage in case sea is not rough. Significantly increasing the lift of the wing, it promises the creation of transports, far bypassing ships in speed, and bypassing aviation in cost-effectiveness and cargo capacity.

"Two years ago I reflected on possible new directions of business and wanted to do passenger transport – Pavel Tsarapkin, Director General of the RDC Company Nizhny Novgorod holding, said. – In studying this question, I came across information about screen plans with their unique characteristics".


"Unfortunately, it turned out that it is simply nowhere to buy such a device, there was not any enterprise around the world ready to make an offer for the supply of WIG for civilian traffic – Pavel Tsarapkin continues. – However, in the search I was lucky enough to meet Edward Vasilyev, a great expert in this field, an author of a great research in the field of commercial use of WIG. He proved to me that such an apparatus can not be bought today, but can be made. His enthusiasm, his competence and dedication convinced me".

RDC began to allocate funds for the development of its own projects of passenger WIGs. The work was headed by Eduard Vasiliev, who dealt with this subject earlier with the team of Rostislav Alexeev. "We organized a small company, which was converted into our own design office, and later united in a consortium with the Nizhny Novgorod aircraft building plant", – Pavel Tsarapkin says.


At the moment two projects are developed at the RDC Aqualines – of light two-seats demonstrator unit that will be able to be used as high-speed pleasure craft and for pilot training, and of mid-sized 16-meter WIG for passengers.

Based on the ideas of Alexeyev, the authors of the project have seriously reworked his decision, taking into account the current economic and practical realities. "Every unit must be developed under the relevant targets, which is formulated even before the engineers get to work – Pavel Tsarapkin continues. – In the Soviet Union such a task was a demonstration of the military potential of WIGs. It is clear that Soviet designers who worked for the "defense industry" could spend as much as was needed and not to look for the effectiveness, – Pavel Tsarapkin says. – We can not practice such an approach, because customers expect a cost-effective technology for commercial exploitation from us".


According to the businessman, the task of the RDC Aqualines is formulated simply: the most cost-effective passenger transportation. That made way for developers to use simple, worked out and available components. Even for Nizhniy Novgorod WIGs is only one type of engines: a normal Chevrolet 454 car engine, modified for using on the water, will be sufficient for 16-meter vessel.


Not so long ago the RDC Aqualines company received the first overseas order: the production of Nizhny Novgorod company interested the carriers of the Sea Wolf Express company, organizing the ferry service between Tallinn and Helsinki. According to the Baltic businessmen, a small rise in price of the ticket may be an acceptable price to pay for a significant reduction in time for the road between the capitals of neighboring countries.


Companies signed a contract for production and delivery of the first WIG for transportation of 12 passengers at a recent MAKS-2015 air show in Moscow. And if it shows itself worthy in the course of trial operation, the Sea Wolf Express will acquire a small fleet more: the option was signed for 15 machines.

"Unfortunately, the prospects of projects with more than 3 years funding return are now very uncertain in Russia. The situation is complicated by the large number of traditional demands, unnecessary regulation and bureaucratization. This seriously hampers the development of all the sphere of transportation, especially if it is a completely new type of vehicle, – Pavel Tsarapkin says. – So only foreign companies exhibit interest in our products for now. We are negotiating with a number of island and coastal countries – Israel, Cape Verde, Finland, Vietnam".

According to the businessman, the representatives of the Vietnam are ready for especially close cooperation. They expressed interest in the localization of their own production of Russian WIGs and distribution throughout the region. And perhaps long-awaited high-speed vessels with the words "Designed in Russia. Made in Vietnam" will run somewhere between the islands of Oceania in a few years.


votes total: 2