Hovercraft are largely regulated according to the environment in which they operate. For example, a hovercraft operating above the ground is considered an all-terrain vehicle.
Along the water, your boat will be considered a boat.
Most vehicles must be insured (whether it's a boat or an off-road vehicle, or both). Here we will briefly discuss these three questions.
Off-road vehicles usually can not drive on public roads. In some municipalities, some ATV regulations apply.
ATV use restrictions and equipment requirements may also apply to hovercraft, depending on local legislation. You may need lighthouses (and sometimes taillights) to get around public roads (or after dark).
There may be plate requirements or other licenses too. To make sure, check with the departments "Motor Vehicles" and "Parks and Recreation".
Operation of water For offshore operation, a hovercraft must generally be registered as a boat. It must comply with the US Coast Guard's boating regulations:
- A safety jacket must be available on board for each occupant of the boat.
- The hovercraft must have enough positive buoyancy stay afloat even if it is totally submerged.
- Night lighting equipment is required for vessels operating at night or more than one mile from the shore during the day in closed waterways (bays, rivers, etc.)
- In the waterways, night lighting is necessary regardless of the distance from the shore.
- A approved fire extinguisher should be on board.
- Fuel system requirements for the engine and the fuel tank (s) must be filled.
- A Hull identification number (HIN) must be visibly in place.
- Maximum weight must be posted in sight on the job.
Due to the arrangement on board the engine (s) and other powered hovercraft equipment, safety standards for power are among the regulations. do not generally applied to the hovercraft. Note: you will also find "Surface effect vehicles" listed in the category "excepted".
Additional information from the Coast Guard is available on the Coast Guard website.
Insurance is a major problem for driving any motorized vehicle. It is not recommended to use a hovercraft (or any type of motor vehicle) without it as it represents only your best interest to have a cover.
It is extremely difficult to find insurance policies specifically covering the hovercraft. Insurance companies consider that hovercraft accident and injury statistics are inaccurate or unreliable. There are also very few hovercraft (compared to cars), which makes most insurers reluctant to provide fonts that may not be very profitable for them.
To ensure a hovercraft, you may be able to purchase marine insurance (for boats) or non-road insurance (for ATVs). It is not advisable to get both (for financial reasons) unless you use your craft in both environments equally. At present, it is generally acceptable to provide a hovercraft in the form of a boat or ATV (but even that has its difficulties).
There are disadvantages to having only insurance for the exploitation of land or waters. For example, if your hovercraft is only insured as a marine vehicle, you will need to transport it to the water before using it. The use of a land-based marine vehicle is not covered by standard boat insurance.
If your hovercraft is insured as an ATV, you are not covered for an offshore operation in most cases (even if the craft has marine capabilities). The goal of having a hovercraft is defeated if you can not take advantage of all the capabilities of the craft.
You can consider insuring your hovercraft as a boat under the owner's policy. This is usually cheaper than a separate policy covering only the vehicle. Also consider that, although you can insure your boat as an ATV, hovercraft are legally classified as boats.
Since the hovercraft is a relatively new recreational activity, there is no legislative body governing the hovercraft. For the most part, hovercraft are self-regulated by the Hoverclub of America.
In many ways, the Hoverclub of America is autonomous in order to prevent any regulation from a legislative body that knows very little about the hovercraft. They are constantly updating their own standards to stay current on these issues.
For more information on hovercraft regulations, visit the Hoverclub of America website or write to them directly.