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Fast. Faster. Fastest?

An ambitious (foolhardy?) plan to build the speediest unmanned boat there's ever been.

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John Stedman24/01/2017 12:20:52
1 forum posts

We make many models as part of our work as architects. Recently we've been looking at the possibility of building a model powerboat that will be capable of travelling at very high speeds, perhaps faster than anyone has achieved before. The plan is for a three point hydroplane powered by solid rocket boosters, with a computer controlled piloting system employing Artificial Intelligence, and using interactive aerodynamic devices to maintain stability in yaw, pitch and roll at extreme velocities. We have a identified a 20 mile long stretch of water in Cambridgeshire on which to run the model, but as yet we do not have enough information to establish what speeds will be attainable. Let's just say 'very fast indeed'.

We're looking for constructive ideas, thoughts and experiences that might just help us make this happen.

Our concept of a rocket powered model boat capable of extremely high speeds has already gained traction, with initial interest being expressed in sponsoring the venture by a well-known international business. Consequently, we have decided to initiate a detailed Feasibility Study for the vessel, whose working name is 'Transonic'. This lengthy document will incorporate the preliminary concepts for the radical hull design, interactive stability mechanisms for both hydrodynamic and aerodynamic control, powerplants, remote control systems, management of the project, the appointment of appropriate experts, and potential funding sources for the venture. Furthermore, it will address other significant aspects such as marketing, management of the site chosen for the high-speed testing, health and safety issues, insurances and other important legal matters. The most complex and significant issues are timetabling and, inevitably, budgets.

We expect to complete this Feasibility Study by April 2017. If appropriate funding is in place by July 2017, it is anticipated that 'Proof of Concept' testing could then commence forthwith. Such work would focus on the design, development and testing of stability devices, and their attendant Artificial Intelligence computer systems, which are currently seen as the most critical aspect of the project. The professional advice we have so far received is that, because of the complex dynamic forces involved, it is very unlikely that test results could be 'scaled up' from smaller models, and that it would be essential to work with prototypes that were similarly sized to the final 'Transonic' craft, and were furthermore capable of travelling at very high speeds. The difficulties of scale are exacerbated by the fact that the only existing computer modelling software that would be usable in theoretical design work is primarily designed for the supersonic aerospace industry, and was never conceived as being translatable to nautical craft. The epithet 'Uncharted Territory' would appear to be applicable to the entire project, but is particularly apposite in these areas of the design.

Requiring a design starting point, and rather quickly, we impulsively decided to take a proprietary injection-moulded 1:32 scale model of a modern F16 jet aircraft, and then chop off most of the wings. This now rather unbecoming machine, obviously incapable of flight, was inevitably christened 'The Dodo'. It put us into the mindset of considering 'interactive three axis control' and not to just restrict our ideas to a traditional yaw control arrangement. There are various theories about how a boat such as this might behave (or misbehave) in the real world at the velocities we are envisaging, but in truth nobody really knows. Many tests will have to be run. Many boats will be destroyed in the process. Much will be learned.

It promises to be a fascinating adventure, perhaps with a surprise ending that relates to the current name of the vessel...

Edited By John Stedman on 24/01/2017 12:22:42

harry smith 124/01/2017 12:41:27
930 forum posts
1198 photos

Hi John


You may check this one out!!!

Dodgy Geezer24/01/2017 13:06:46
818 forum posts
59 photos

From a regulatory point of view you might find that the US is the best place to do this sort of thing: **LINK** Otherwise, you might need to consider this kind of study: **LINK**


I suspect it will not be as difficult to obtain the necessary power units as it will be to maintain stability, particularly in the transonic regime. You will probably need to adjust the aerodynamic loads on the craft extremely rapidly. There are a few people who do know something about the behaviour of rapidly-moving objects close to a ground/water surface - the staff at the Pendine research centre, for example: **LINK**

The most obvious person to talk to is Ron Ayers **LINK** but I believe that he's rather busy at the moment...


The Americans have been doing just what you are thinking of for some time, with a cut-down Starfighter - I believe they;re finding it rather difficult...

Edited By Dodgy Geezer on 24/01/2017 13:10:37

Gareth Jones24/01/2017 13:10:09
778 forum posts
1065 photos

This looks to be a fascinating technical challenge. I suspect the health and safety aspects could be as challenging as the engineering. How wide is the 20 mile long stretch of water - monitoring the models safe progress could be tricky.

I will watch with interest. - from a safe distance.


Colin Bishop24/01/2017 13:13:27
4297 forum posts
6051 photos
394 articles


I think you should be aware that many of the members on this Forum are also members of the Model Boat Mayhem forum.

If you wish to continue posting on here I must insist that you demonstrate your bona fides starting with a link to your architectural practice website and some visual evidence of previous projects undertaken.

Our other members might like to check out your Mayhem topic (particularly the final pages) before posting:,56963.0.html


Colin Bishop

Website Editor

Edited By Colin Bishop, Website Editor on 24/01/2017 13:17:17

Gareth Jones24/01/2017 13:26:33
778 forum posts
1065 photos

Gosh, what a surprise, and I was going to urge Ashley to start stocking up on hardboard.


Dodgy Geezer24/01/2017 14:15:11
818 forum posts
59 photos

I think that many of our answers were tongue-in-cheek - mine certainly was....

Paul T24/01/2017 17:03:08
6790 forum posts
1128 photos
2 articles

What is that stuff that comes out from under a bulls tail?

ashley needham24/01/2017 17:35:35
5908 forum posts
193 photos

I have already started cutting up the superior man made board!! Ashley

shipwright24/01/2017 19:52:07
250 forum posts
54 photos

I assume that the authorities who govern the stretch of water that will be used in the trials have been approached. Apart from H&S there is likely to be a concern for wildlife.

Based on no more than a "gut feeling" if the intention is for the craft to approach speeds of several hundreds of mph I cannot believe that an off the shelf "proprietary injection-moulded 1:32 scale model of a modern F16 jet aircraft" would withstand the extreme stresses that the structure will inevitably be subjected to.

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We welcome well written contributions from Website members on almost any aspect of Model Boating with a particular emphasis on practical hints, tips, experience and builds.

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