Celebrate Industrial Engine Week! Airboats



Today is the final day of our industrial engine week, and we focus on a niche market that has been up-and-coming for MDPT over the last couple of years: Airboats. Hmmm…


Correct. Airboats are a special case that is handled by MDPT rather than the larger MarineDiesel group because airboats are a hybrid of sorts. They are boats, but they use engines that are engineered for use on land. This makes them unique in the marine world.

Traditionally, airboats were simple vehicles: A shallow, flat bottomed boat with a (usually) used aircraft engine mounted astern that featured a direct coupling to an aircraft propeller straight off the flywheel. Ratios were inexact, with propeller pitch largely used to control performance levels.

Modern airboats bear little more than a casual resemblance to these old vessels. Modern airboats can now be equipped with climate controlled cabins, gun positions for military use, and are always equipped with modern, compact and high powered engines. Propellers are designed with lightweight composites, and there are complex gear or belt drive systems that can include variable gear ratios. Indeed, some airboats are now equipped with contra-rotating dual props that provide huge amounts of torque and extremely high speeds.

Airboats are often commonly seen in the Everglades, or on TV shows like “Swamp People”, and so on. They handle conditions in swamps quite well, being shallow draft and not having any propeller to run aground or get snagged. However, there are many other applications for airboats, and this niche market is booming: Military use for patrol, rescue, use on ice. All of these uses are now common.

For more information:

Leppek, Adam P., “Optimization of an Airboat Design” (2012). Honors Theses. Paper 2180. offers a good and interesting overview of modern airboat design and why airboats are well suited for their application.

MDPT is at the forefront of powering some of these cutting-edge designs. Our marine heritage serves us well in providing specialized engines for airboats. As we mentioned earlier, airboats are a hybrid of sorts. They use engines designed for use on land, but they are exposed to the harsh marine environment. We have the ability to combine these two fields of expertise into a single, customized and application-specific product, with appropriate injectors, connectors, and cooling systems. We also work very closely with the drive manufacturers, propeller manufacturers, and designers to offer complete airboat propulsion packages.

We have completed airboat projects in Russia, Finland, the USA, Australia, and Thailand, and this market segment is becoming a specialty of MDPT. Contact us today on your next project, but please see below for some previous MDPT installations.

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