Our Prototypes column introduces new vehicle concepts and presents visuals from designers who illustrate the ideas. Some of them will be extensions of existing concepts, others will be new, some will be production ready, and others really far-fetched.
The Tripogryph is a combination of a hovercraft and a ground effect aircraft. It can hover above any surface by using its three smart blowers and glide over surfaces at low altitude using thrust provided by two micro-turbine engines located on its wings.
Once in a while, I try to come up with an original configuration for a personal hovercraft concept. (Your ideas are welcome, by the way!)
While I was discussing design sketches with Ray Mattison, we tried different positions for the ventilators meant to lift and push the vehicle forward. There are a lot of possible combinations, and some are less effective than others. In this vehicle, we tried to combine the versatility of a low-speed hovercraft with the lifting capability of a ground effect vehicle.
How it works
The Tripogryph is configured similarly to a trike (a three-wheeled motorcycle like the Can-Am Spyder). The rider sits on top of the vehicle, the engine is located under the seat, and it's controlled by handlebars. However, the comparison stops there—the Tripogryph is supported by three blowers instead of wheels.
These blowers push air downward into a rubber skirt (airskirt), which increases air pressure and creates lift. The pressure difference is enough to make the vehicle float and travel over land, mud, ice, water, and other surfaces. The rubber on the airskirt also protects the vehicle from damage if it runs over small rocks or debris.
To change direction, the driver turns the handlebars and the vehicle's computer alters the airflow coming out of the airskirts. Electric actuators located in the airskirt lift a small section of the skirt to tilt the vehicle and slide it in the desired direction. These actuators also work continuously to maintain the vehicle in a precise spot when you want it to stay that way.
Additionally, two micro-turbine engines located on the front legs are used to push air backwards and move the Tripogryph forward. These engines would be able to pivot left and right to alter the direction of the craft.
At this point, I thought 'why not design the legs so they could act as wings, and use the micro turbines to morph this hovercraft into a ground effect vehicle?' (See the Antares and the Argentic) Of course, the shape of the wings would need to be designed so they can actually generate lift, and the engines would need to be powerful enough. If the vehicle can lift off, maybe the three blowers (airskirts) could pivot upward and create additional thrust to fly faster.
The Tripogryph is still an early-stage concept idea, and many of its functionalities are not shown. We still need to define how all the systems could interact together. How much power would it need to hover and fly in ground effect? Could the vehicle make a transition from hovering to lifting up and then fly at higher speeds?
What it's used for
The Tripogryph could be used as a search and rescue vehicle to travel over all kinds of surfaces. I'm thinking about the bayou, the everglades, beaches, deserts, vast stretches of tundra, etc. Its flexible legs that double as wings could adapt to slight ground variations and its gliding capability would allow it to cover long distances.
I would like to thank Ray Mattison from Design Eye-Q who created the renderings of the Tripogryph concept. Mattison is based near Duluth, Minn. He studied at the College for Creative Studies and worked for Cirrus Aircraft and Exodus Machines. Mattison also created the images of the Icarus wingless aircraft and Argentic search and rescue concepts.
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