Imagine flying at 125mph just a couple of feet above the surface of the water in a vessel that is neither a boat nor an aircraft. Crazy, right? Meet the EP-15, a 72-foot vessel that uses a law of physics used by seabirds to glide over oceans with minimal effort. It is the creation of a company called RDC Aqualines that has announced its plans to manufacture the craft in Spain. The principle of physics used by the EP-15 to fly over the surface of the water is called ground effect.
The ground effect phenomenon was discovered by the 1920s and scientists started developing vessels that could use the concept of physics to maximize efficiency. Such flying ships are called ground effect vehicles (GEV), or ekranoplans. Different militaries across the world showed greater interest in ground effect vehicles for their ability to fly without being detected by radars. The Soviet Union was one of the first to build a working prototype in the 1960s, which was followed by the 400-tonne Lun-class ekranoplan built in the ‘80s as an anti-ship missile launch platform. Despite being researched for more than 7 decades, the concept of ground effect vehicle has failed to materialize.
However, several companies are trying again to use the ground effect phenomenon to build vessels for commercial transportation. A Singaporean company named has already showcased its Wigetworks’ Airfish-8 GEV. The EP-15 by RDC Aqualines is slightly different, although. Instead of an internal combustion engine, the flying boat will be powered by a 600-hp electric-hydrogen hybrid powertrain, which should make it future-proof.
Although the details on the propulsion system are sparse at the moment, the GEV will feature three electric-powered propellers – two smaller ones at the nose and a bigger one at the back. The company claims the EP-15 will fly one foot above the surface of the water. It will have a top speed of approximately 125 mph, with a cruising speed of 115 mph, and a range of about 375 miles with a full load.
The cabin will be fully customizable. It can feature two rows of single seats split by an aisle in the middle or personalized for a private buyer. The seats can also be completely removed for the EP-15 to be used as a cargo vessel. The GEV will also have retractable landing gear that will help it taxi on the ground. RDC Aqualines claims the EP-15 will be launched by 2024, which might be a bit too optimistic.