The idea of a hovercraft brings forth images of spaceships zooming throughout the universe, however the reality is that hovercrafts are much more likely to be found sailing the seas. Today, hovercrafts are designed as propeller driven boats that use fans to force air under the craft, which then moves the craft forward by skirting over a body of water.
Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, many ideas of the first hovercraft were developed in Europe. However, these designs were not successful as they used a design based off the ground effect, which used air to reduce the water drag on a sailing ship. Models based from this design received little traction in marketing, manufacturing, and selling their products, as they were not much advanced over standard boats of the day.
By 1952 an inventor by the name of Christopher Cockerell invented and patented the first hovercraft. Unlike the ground effect design that plagued the first attempts, this new, more advanced hovercraft design allowed for constant airflow beneath the craft, which allowed up to two feet of lift from the water's surface.
This design was used by Charles J Fletcher of the United States in the creation of "glidemobiles" for use during World War II. Further developments on this model continued to be used throughout the 20th century in the U.S. Navy.
Civilian hovercrafts were also being developed beginning in the 1950s. These crafts were mainly used for transportation, with the first passenger craft being used to transport passengers between various North Wales Coasts in the 1960s.
Today, hovercrafts are still used in tourism, transportation and for military endeavors. Attempts to advance the technology to allow for high-speed hover trains have been proposed from the 1970s. However, these attempts have not yet been successful. Despite this, continued research to develop and advance the hover technology continues today, and will likely result in diverse applications being developed for future purposes.