Perfecting its craft

Griffon Hoverwork’s history of working in the hovercraft industry extends back over four decades. The craft are all designed in-house referencing their history and including the original British Hovercraft Corporation knowledgebase. The development of Griffon Hoverwork under the ownership of Bland Group has allowed investment in lean manufacturing techniques, product development and after-sales service. Its market extends to 41 countries with over 180 craft brought into service. Griffon has achieved global leadership of the design and manufacture of hovercraft and has therefore now evolved its mission to include a drive to re-use the technology it has developed to provide customers with products and services that will enhance the sustainability of both air cushion and conventional marine vessels.

Working with customers informed Griffon Hoverwork that improved efficiency was pivotal in the development of new passenger carrying and logistic designs. Its newest design, the 12000TD is a groundbreaking new model that combines experience and new technology from Griffon Hoverwork; bringing together a variety of improvements. The first stage of the design was to work with its sister company, Hovertravel, to analyse passenger throughput demand and to improve the passenger experience. The result is a new model of hovercraft that is optimised for the Hovertravel route between Southsea and Ryde, Isle of Wight.

Griffon Hoverwork’s managing director Adrian Went gives some more details about this new launch. It is the first high speed craft code passenger vessel (hovercraft or conventional) to be designed, built and used in the UK for over a decade: “The 12000TD hovercraft, which will be put in to service between Southsea and the Isle of Wight, is a completely new design, breaking with our tradition of extending what came before. It took years of experience of having worked in the hovercraft market to accomplish this vessel. For one, we did analysis to gauge the passenger numbers so that it could be optimised to meet their needs, and we combined this with a design for significantly improved fuel and crew efficiency.”

The 12000TD also features new technology that Griffon has pioneered. Mixed aerodynamic flow fans are used to minimise power taken from thrust for lift and compact permanent magnet generators, motors and an in-house developed power electronics control system is used for the bow thrusters. Development of the latter was a result of work on a new small hovercraft using diesel electric drive, the 995ED, where the electric solution allowed distribution of machinery around the centre of gravity to obviate the need for ballast. It also features a lightweight bonded aluminum structure as an alternative to a welded structure, improving strength, weight, fabrication time and dimensional tolerance. The electric drive system has been re-configured and is being successfully marketed as a hybrid or electric drive system for conventional vessels in the range 60 to 300kW. This system can provide a very economic and flexible in-harbour low speed drive and hotel power solutions with or without battery storage. It can be fitted to a stand-alone small diesel engine or fitted as an ancillary drive from the main engine, as well as to hybrid-ready gearboxes. Fuel and maintenance savings are significant as well as the installation’s green credentials. These remarkable achievements are a testament to the company’s investment in technology and demonstrate how it is leading the way in this industry.

It is clear that there is a focus by Griffon on providing the best product for what a client needs, as well as ensuring cost effective and efficient craft, which is compliant with Flag and International (high speed craft) regulations, something that predecessor craft have not been able to achieve. Adrian notes: “The 12000TD is entirely compliant with all of the latest requirements for passenger disabled access, something that fewer passenger vehicles than you might expect actually meet, as many came in before the new standard was set. The deep windows maximise visibility to improve the passenger experience, as well as providing an ergonomically designed cabin for the captain – these were priorities for this vessel.

“A better view during the crossing has enhanced the appeal of the service for tourists who make up a large proportion of the passenger activity. The noise signature of the craft has also received attention, we have managed a decrease of 12 decibels, a significant drop. This was achieved by increasing the radius of the propellers. Increasing blade chord in order to reduce tip speed – the source of much of the signature.” The achievements made by Griffon with the new craft 12000TD have been a useful way of raising the company’s standing and reputation in the market, as Adrian explains: “We see Hovertravel as being the shop window for our services in the passenger market and to show what we can do.”

Though this newest craft is for the passenger market there are a variety of other applications for hovercrafts that extend across multiple sectors. Griffon’s products are used for survey work, civil engineering support, mobile medical clinics, search and rescue, and logistics, with a major part of sales being for international security requirements. The main benefits of a hovercraft from Griffon is it has the ability to travel at high speed over a wide variety of surfaces, with the high reliability and low maintenance running costs of modern diesel engines. The hovercraft has a simple and robust construction with a high degree of maneuverability, and its designs allow for a wide variety of fit out configurations. Whether it be military, paramilitary, industrial, commercial, or for transport and commuting purposes, the hovercraft offers versatility and reliability for a wide range of environments than other vehicles cannot access including marshland, tidal areas, shallow water, ice and riverine rapids.

Griffon has made developments that will have a wide reaching impact across the industry and the many sectors it provides for. It has proven once again to have a talented research and development team in the business, which has paid dividends with the improvements made in bonded structures and the light-weight electric drive system, with both likely to underpin all future designs. Furthermore, with growing opportunities that span sectors ranging from military to tourism, and with interest from markets across the globe increasing, it is a business that looks in a great position to take advantage of all the opportunities that present themselves going forward.

Griffon Hoverwork

New hovercraft models
New technology
New international opportunities