Advantages of hovercraft when compared to other SAR vehicles
Hovercraft have certain advantages when compared to boats. With a boat, you can’t maneuver yourself on top of mud and ice. You can attempt to do so during floods, but the propellers get snagged up on both detritus and elements of the environment—aspects like outdoor furniture, wire fences, and plastic bags—which makes them work more slowly and less efficiently. In contrast, hovercraft don’t have propellers, so they can’t get stuck with this problem.
And as for fast-running water, it is often so strong that it would sweep boats away. Hovercraft are safer (and, not to mention, more eco-friendly) than boats. This is because they hover 9 inches above the surface. Thus, the rescuers are kept elevated from the source of the problem; they don’t have to go directly within the “eye of the storm,” as it were.
Boats are also not very helpful in low water and shoals. Hovercraft fix this problem: they can travel over rocks and shallow water, as well as sandbars. They have no trouble at all hovering over shoals, either. Hovercraft can hover over a wide variety of elements of the landscape, including car tires (floods) and logs (swamps). This is in direct contrast to boats, which can be dangerous if water levels are above normal – see this site.
There are several advantages that hovercraft has a rescue vehicle when it’s compared to helicopters. For one thing, helicopters are much more expensive than hovercraft. Hovercraft are often much cheaper than helicopters which perform similar functions. According to some estimates, you could get 10—or even 15—hovercraft for the price it would take you to buy 1 helicopter. For another, helicopter training takes longer, and pilots are harder to find.
Moreover, when helicopters are running, they create downward draft winds that blow at 100 miles per hour. These winds make it harder to rescue victims. As a result of the drafts, the pilots need to send down winch cables, which takes a while—and the victim has to tread in dangerous waters, with tired legs, while they wait while the winch cable is being lowered all the way down toward the victim. Plus, the winch cables have weight limits set on them; they can only take, at most, 2 people at a time.
When flood victims need to escape the waters—a task which is done by climbing trees, buildings, or pylons—helicopters are limited in that their rotor blades cannot make contact with taller structures. Moreover, trees can affect the visibility of helicopter pilots. However, rescue hovercraft don’t suffer from this same problem.
Moreover, helicopters make a lot of noise. In consequence, when their pilots need to make communications with their fellows on the ground, they do so via radio. However, radio signals are usually not available during floods. In contrast, rescue hovercraft pilots can communicate by radio just fine.