Hydrofoils and Stability

Hydrofoil boat in motion

Today’s fastest boats use hydrofoils to lift most of a boat’s hull out of the water. This greatly reduces the drag a boat experiences, but it can also make the boat difficult to handle. One style of hydrofoil boat, called a single-track hydrofoil, uses two hydrofoils in line with one another to support and steer the boat. The pilot can steer the lead hydrofoil into the direction of a fall to correct it. Stability-wise, this is the same way that you keep a bicycle upright. On a boat, the situation is a bit tougher to manage, and, like riding a bike, it takes practice. A group of students published a full mathematical model for the dynamics of this kind of boat, which allows designers to test a prototype’s stability early in the design process and enables student teams to use computer simulators to train their pilots to drive a boat before putting them out on the water, similar to the way that airplane pilots train. (Image credit: TU Delft Solar Boat Team, source; research credit: G. van Marrewijk et al., pdf; via TU Delft News; submitted by Marc A.)

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