The world’s first hybrid aeroboat – a boat capable of travelling across water, snow, sand and land – will be unveiled next month at the Skolkovo Foundation’s Startup Village, a giant two-day event for tech entrepreneurs and investors.
The Aeroboat is a joint Indian-Russian venture designed by IIAAT Holding, a St. Petersburg-based resident startup of Skolkovo’s space cluster, and is designed to access challenging terrain, such as flooded or marshy areas where the use of regular boats is made impossible by the shallow depth of the water, patches of dry land or by marine vegetation.
“They can be used for a whole variety of applications, including search and rescue operations, transportation of people and cargo, leisure, sports, fishing, monitoring of ports and surveillance,” says Sukrit Sharan, a senior board member of IIAAT Holding.
At the open-air Startup Village on June 6-7, where more than 150 other hi-tech innovations from around the world will be on display, the Aeroboat will be demonstrated on and around the Skolkovo pond.
“After our success with Indian disaster management authorities, Russia’s MChS (Ministry of Emergency Situations) has shown very strong interest in these vehicles.”
With room for 10 passengers and one crew member, the 6.5-metre-long Aeroboat can handle steep slopes and embankments, and doesn’t require any marine infrastructure such as jetties, since it is amphibious. It also has a range of advantages over existing amphibious vehicles, according to its makers.
“Hovercrafts work on static air-cushion, whereas Aeroboats work on dynamic air-cushion. This feature gives Aeroboats a huge advantage in terms of speed and manoeuvrability,” says Sharan, adding that the IIAAT team has also developed nanomaterial-based anti-friction technology for the engine and selected mechanical parts, which greatly reduces friction and energy losses.
“While hovercrafts on average move at around 45-50 km/hr, Aeroboats are capable of going at around 150 km/hr and even more on water,” he told Sk.ru. “These speed levels are critical, especially during search and rescue operations, where sometimes every minute of swiftness can result in saving lives, as well as frequency in transportation of both passengers and cargo.”
The Aeroboat is also more robust than hovercrafts, and with estimated maintenance costs of $400-$600 per year, is cheaper to maintain and fuel, says Sharan. The Aeroboat boasts a hybrid engine which means it can run on either petrol or electricity, enabling users to reduce carbon emissions and increase energy efficiency. Having produced both an internal combustion engine model and a hybrid engine model, IIAAT soon plans to launch an electric-only model with tandem wings.
“Additionally, we are equipping our Aeroboats with IoT (Internet of Things) technology, which allows us to remotely monitor and control/diagnose the equipment, as well as troubleshoot selected faults,” said Sharan, adding that to ensure the security of its IoT technology, the company is working with InfoWatch Group, a leading Russian cybersecurity company headed by Natalya Kasperskaya.
The Aeroboat’s makers identify potential clients as government agencies who could use the vehicles for emergencies and surveillance, corporations for transporting passengers and cargo to infrastructure sites such as oil and gas rigs in shallow waters, and individuals using the Aero Boat for transport and recreation.
IIAAT Holding, a joint venture between the International Institute for Advanced Aerospace Technologies in St. Petersburg and the Indian company Millennium Aerodynamics, already has orders for more than 25 units from private and government buyers in India, where there are plenty of areas where the boats could be deployed, due to monsoon flooding and the country’s vast network of rivers and canals, some of which dry up partly or completely in summer.
“We have already exported around five units to India, both for transportation and disaster management applications,” said Sharan. “These delivered products are poised to help save hundreds of lives in India during the monsoon season when the regions experience floods.”
“Our amphibious Aeroboats can provide high-speed year-round navigation, even when bodies of water are frozen, and since they are amphibious, they require no marine or related infrastructure.”
The Aeroboat is also already available on the Russian market, in both its internal combustion engine and hybrid models.
“After our success with Indian disaster management authorities, Russia’s MChS (Ministry of Emergency Situations) has shown very strong interest in these vehicles,” said Sharan.
The Aeroboat can also contribute to the development of regional economies by enhancing transportation connectivity in remote regions where overland and marine transport infrastructure is lacking, its makers say. Russia has many inhabited regions that are inaccessible for large parts of the year.
“In Russia we have frozen rivers and canals for almost half of the year, which makes navigation by normal boats impossible,” said Sharan.
“It’s possible to use hovercrafts, but they are very expensive to operate and also have speed limitations. Our amphibious Aeroboats can provide high-speed year-round navigation, even when bodies of water are frozen, and since they are amphibious, they require no marine or related infrastructure,” he said.
The Aeroboat was designed jointly by Russian and Indian scientists and engineers, and is currently manufactured in St. Petersburg under both Russian and international certification. Some vital control systems and their programming are developed in India, said Sharan.
“The project is a fine example of Russian-Indian joint collaboration right at the start-up level. The support received from Skolkovo has always been appreciated by us,” he told Sk.ru.
Russia and India have enjoyed good relations since Soviet times, and Russia remains India’s biggest defence supplier. Last October, the two countries signed a raft of 16 agreements, including on developing smart cities and transport logistics systems, and a memorandum of understanding on collaboration in space technology.
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