Inflatable landing craft

Exhibited at Seawork International 2015 by the UK’s Henshaw Inflatables was this capable looking small inflatable landing craft, ideal for a vast range of duties from rescue services to ultra shallow draft load carrying in near shore marine civils projects.

The boat, dubbed the iLC (inflatable Landing Craft), was originally designed on behalf of a superyacht owner who wanted something that would fold down small but also be capable of carrying a quad bike ashore. Models have been designed for the police, military, fire service and also as an approved SOLAS rescue craft for commercial ships.

The 5.5m inflatable is perfect for beach landings due to its shallow draft and light weight. The boat is also rated to be lifted with 900kg payload by cranes, meaning it can be lifted on board safely even with a large load.

It appears to take a lot of its technology from SLT (superlight tunnel-hull) class inflatable boats (such as Zapcats and Thundercats). Similar to these vessels it has asymmetric catamaran hulls with grounding reinforcement and a flat floor creating a tunnel between them to give a degree of air entrapment lift (when lightly loaded). The inboard verticals of such hulls also allow high-G cornering (again only when planing and lightly loaded), but this could be an interesting dimension for potential military or paramilitary markets.

The design utilises recent advances in inflatable materials with a drop stitch floor and Hypalon tubes. Dropstitch floors are created by manufacturing an air chamber that has its upper and lower surfaces joined together by many hundreds of tiny but very strong fibres. It means that structures that when inflated without dropstitch would form a cylinder, form a board like structure, very light but with surprising structural rigidity. The technology is commonly used in the leisure industry for inflatable paddleboards, small yacht tender floors and Sit On Top kayaks. The dropstitch floor is inflated to a higher pressure than the main tubes.

Hypalon is a neoprene sandwich material which gives inflatables a much longer lifespan than the cheaper PVC alternative. It has a silky, rubbery matte feel when compared with (shiny) PVC and is much more commonly found on commercial quality inflatables.

The boat is marketed in the UK by Superyacht Tenders and Toys who claim that inflation and assembly time is approximately 15 minutes out of the bag. The only non-inflatable item is the transom, which is used to roll the rest of the boat around when stowing.

The expectation is that this will sell well to the commercial market, but also yachts who need a crew tender but do not have a lot of space for a rigid one on board.

Guy Whitehouse from Guy Whitehouse Yacht Design, who designed the iLC, commented: “This type of boat is only possible because we are taking advantage of the latest Hypalon fabrics. We are able to design and manufacture inflatable products with genuine “rigid” but inflated structure; the drop stitch is normally inflated to about 8psi. This is not a toy tender but a serious bit of kit.”

The design was recently nominated for Outstanding Product of the Year in the Institute of Mechanical Engineers Excellence Awards, Wessex Region.