For over 10 years, Jim Pitts spent his time designing and prototyping a hovercraft-based vehicle small enough and inexpensive enough that everyone could afford to own and play with one. There are currently a few companies making hovercraft-based vehicles, but many of those vehicles are quite large and complex, which unfortunately makes the lowest-priced ones cost over $5,000 and a large hovercraft can cost more then a new car. For most of us, this means that owning any kind of hovercraft is not a possibility, but Jim would like to change that.
Below is a picture of one of Jim's earliest prototypes, showing hovercraft technology being successfully demonstrated in a highly compact form.
To see the video, click here.
As you can see in the video, this early prototype lacked stability as well as the ability to move forward. Eventually, Jim created a better rubber air cushion to improve stability, as well as adding extra battery power, a clear polycarbonate platform shaped more like a skateboard and an electric moped wheel to provide forward momentum. Pictures of that prototype are shown below without the rubber air cushion attached, so you can see the prototype's components easier.
The skateboard wheels he added provided stability when the rider first stepped onto the board, then the air-turbine would be turned on (via remote control) so the rubber air cushion would inflate and lift the skateboard wheels off the ground, so it rides on the "bubble" of air.
The rear moped wheel can push down against the ground to provide forward momentum.
A small electric motor drives the moped wheel (which can be activated with a remote control) giving you a boost of speed with the push of a button. The moped wheel can also be made to spin freely or entirely removed, so the prototype can be used like a regular skateboard (propelled forward using just your foot). In addition, since it is common in some skateboarding activities to travel downhill at a fairly high speed, the moped wheel can also be activated by the remote-control to spin backwards. This causes it to act as a brake in emergencies, unlike a normal skateboard which might force you to jump off and roll across the asphalt until you stop, which is somewhat... painful.
Below is a picture of this early prototype being tested:
To see the video, click here.
Today's most updated version of the HoverSkater has upgrades which have focused on refining the design and adding functionality. Most noticeably, it is shaped more like a type of skateboard known as a longboard, for better stability and ease of use over long distances (compared to a standard skateboard). Specially designed elongated axles with skateboarding wheels will "catch" the rider if they take a turn too fast or begin to lose their balance. While it was possible to create this small hovercraft without any wheels, the advantages of increased stability as well as the capability of using it like a longboard are opportunities too good to pass up.
Experienced skateboarders, surfers and other sports enthusiasts have said that riding the HoverSkater is unlike anything else they've tried before... you feel like you are surfing on a bubble of air.
The most complex parts of the HoverSkater, such as the air turbine, the battery packs, remote control, specialized skateboard wheels, moped wheel and LED lighting system are components which are already being manufactured by various companies who have been making these types of items for years. In the same way that modern car makers will purchase some of a new car's parts from other manufacturers, the most complex parts for this small hovercraft can be purchased, tested and verified to be performing correctly and then installed. Jim chose to source these complex parts because this increases the speed of the manufacturing process tremendously, as well as maintaining far higher standards of quality control than anything which could be built in a regular garage or workshop.
However, there are many specialized components which Jim also needed to design and build in order to create this small hovercraft. For example, the electrical wiring system which regulates the air turbine needed to be specialized for smoothly increasing or decreasing the throttle when using the remote control, the air flowing from the horizontally-positioned turbine needed a custom metal piece to direct it downward into the air cushion at the correct angle and the elongated axles were custom-crafted from aircraft-grade aluminum. In addition, the clear polycarbonate board (deck) needed to be crafted into a certain shape to increase stability and it was critically important to correctly shape the black air-curtain (also known as the air cushion or skirt) which allows the air from the turbine to flow correctly, so you can be lifted up and ride on the bubble of air (hovering).
The HoverSkater is intended to be modified based on the way you want to use it. For example, you can remove the rubber skirting in order to use it like a regular longboard (with a great looking light show).
The wheels can be switched out for other standard skateboard wheels of your choice and you can use or remove the electric-powered moped wheel. The unique clear board allows for additional customization of its appearance with its on-board LEDs. These add a very unique element to this longboard, creating a diffused light that is so bright it is eye-catching in the daytime, but it really stands out at night! The LED lights can be changed to many different colors throughout the light spectrum, blink on and off, slowly fade from one color to the next, increase or decrease in brightness and more. See examples below:
A rechargeable battery-pack hidden under the board provides power for the LED lights, the electric air turbine that creates the hovercraft's air cushion and the remote-controlled moped wheel. The batteries are by far the most costly part of the HoverSkater's components because they are some of the best on the market, professionally manufactured by a company in Detroit, USA.
The amount of time that the current prototype's batteries last varies a great deal, depending on the rider's weight, desired speed, the terrain being traveled across, whether or not the moped wheel is being used, as well as how the rider is using their HoverSkater. For example, when doing slides and other skating tricks the batteries can crank out over 50 bursts of full-throttle hovering, with each burst lasting for 10-30 seconds of hard use. For normal use (i.e. traveling for significant distances on sidewalks and streets) you can use the remote to control the hovering capability, so it can vary between high, medium, low and no throttle, saving the battery power for much longer time periods.
The HoverSkater works well for longboarding sports and distance traveling, giving you the ability to smoothly ride up over rough & cracked patches of sidewalk and asphalt as well as glide over loose gravel in the roadway. No one likes being thrown forward off their skateboard by rough patches of ground, but this is a problem so common in the world of skateboarding that it is accepted as "normal". The HoverSkater is truly unique, as hovercraft technology can make that problem a thing of the past.
Below are links for more info:
- A television interview with Jim can be seen by clicking here.
- An newspaper article can be seen by clicking here.
- More pictures of the prototype and its components can be seen in an online photo album by clicking here.
The current prototype is a proof-of-concept, however the final version which will be manufactured will be much more refined. Depending on the amount of funding received through Kickstarter, the final version can become more sleek and futuristic as well as having additional upgrades to the remote controls, air turbine and more. This directly results in your HoverSkater being even more advanced and refined when you get one of your own! You can make that happen by making a pledge on the upper right-side of this page and get a reward sent to you!
Support this project to get a shirt, sweater or a new HoverSkater
A message requesting an interview can be sent to:
firstname.lastname@example.org or (602)796-3322
Risks and challenges
J.D. Ellen Manufacturing Corp is the manufacturer this project will use to professionally produce the HoverSkaters. This company can manufacture each unit with high standards of quality control and is able to deliver within a speedy time frame. They've quoted 5-15 weeks from receiving the initial deposit to begin manufacturing. They can produce an estimated 35,000 units per year. They've offered to ship the completed product directly to your address, completely eliminating shipping and handling issues. Estimated shipping costs are included in your pledge amount, of course. The minimum deposit they require is approx $20,000 and since Kickstarter has a small fee, the project's minimum goal has been set at $22,000.
If there is a need for more production or for a backup manufacturer, Coplin Manufacturing has quoted 5-10 weeks from receiving the deposit to beginning the manufacturing process. Their minimum deposit is also approx $20,000 and they've quoted that they can produce approx 50,000 units per year. They are also offering shipping directly to your address.
InventHelp has also offered connections to at least 7 different manufacturers who have all responded that they were willing to manufacture the product. Their required deposit amounts, their start times and their shipping options varied somewhat, but were all fairly similar to the two manufacturer's listed above. These manufacturers are additional options that would be used in the unlikely scenario that the first two manufacturers experience unforeseen challenges. Having one backup option is good, but having 7 additional backup options is even better!
Learn about accountability on Kickstarter