Suspended in air, hovercraft lets you fly

Link to Palm Beach Daily News Story:

If you buy a Universal Hovercraft Renegade IQ, not only can you hover, but you also can use it as a Jet Ski, snowmobile, amphibian, airboat and four-wheeler. No matter your destination, this hovercraft is an easy-to-drive two-passenger vehicle.

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The Renegade IQ hovercraft, which comes with an LED headlight, rear-view mirrors, and cruiser windshield, is priced at $32,000.

Like a Jet Ski from the floorboards up, it has handlebars and a bench seat. But it also has a vertical fan that blows air underneath the hull, and a flexible skirt around the edge that keeps the air from dissipating too quickly, creating a bubble of high pressure that lifts and moves the craft.

“Mom can get in one with her kid, turn a key, hit the throttle and enjoy a hovercraft ride,” said Matt Stewart, who represents the company and also works for Nautical Ventures in Dania Beach.

“I could teach a 10-year-old how to drive it in a few minutes.”

For those who want some excitement, “you can be at a 30-degree drifting turn, while also doing 360-degree spins, if you can imagine that. It’s epic,” Stewart said. “The sensory experience is unparalleled.

“I can teach people to do 360s right off the bat, too.”

Crash-proof

A sort of science-fiction vehicle that moves suspended in air, it seems otherworldly, even if you know the physics behind it. And, while it can’t go to Mars, it can go places no other vehicle can, such as over shallow water, thin ice or deep mud, as long as the surface is relatively flat.

It has a 29 horsepower engine, can go up to 50 mph and cruises at 35 mph. Seven gallons of gas will take you 140 miles. It’s registered as a boat, so you don’t need a driver’s license.

If you live on the water, you can just drive it out of the garage and into the water. Or, if you are in the water and want to bring it onto a beach that allows boats, you can drive it up on the sand.

They are compact, relatively lightweight, and can easily be stowed aboard most yachts.

With a foam core that’s wrapped with layers of Kevlar, it’s crash proof, Stewart said.

“Others have two fans: one that lifts and one that pushes forward. What the Renegade has is the lift and thrust with one propeller, so it’s less weight, which means you can pull it on a trailer behind a Mini Cooper; it’s simpler to operate and quieter.”

In the making for 10 years

Universal Hovercraft, headquartered in Rockford Ill. and founded by Bob Zang, has been in existence for 30 years. “The current owner, Bill Zang, likes to say ‘Uncle Bob didn’t invent them, but he was a pioneer,’ ” Stewart said. “From what I understand, Bob saw one on TV when he was young, and said ‘I’m going to make those,’ and that was it.”

The Renegade, made to be consumer-focused, has been in the making for 10 years. Its soft start was three years ago, and it was officially launched during the Miami Boat Show in 2014.

Universal Hovercraft makes 20 models, including commercial crafts, sports crafts that can hold several people, search-and-rescue crafts, and even a craft for kids.

Flies off the water

If you want to get really fancy, you can purchase its highest end hovercraft, the Hoverwing, which flies off the water.

The Renegade IQ, which comes with an LED headlight, rear-view mirrors, and cruiser windshield, is priced at $32,000. While it can go on any trailer, one designed specifically for it, the EZ Load Trailer, is priced at $1,890.

To price-compare some options, if you want to put the Renegade IQ together yourself, you can buy it as a kit for $23,995, or you can go all out and get the 240-horsepower Hoverwing for $190,000.

The Renegade IQ is available at Nautical Ventures, 50 South Bryan Road., Dania Beach. For $80, you can attain a demo-flight experience. For more information, call (954) 926-5250.

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