The Mobula is a jaw-dropping proposal for a massive, luxury transport vehicle which blurs the line between a cruise ship and a passenger aircraft.The Mobula was designed by Chris Cooke, a 2009 graduate of Coventry University's transport design program. The concept was developed as his final year project.During the research phase of the project Cooke looked to nature for inspiration. And in fact the vehicle's name is taken from a particular species of ray which can launch itself out of the water several meters.
The basic premise for the Mobula is a phenomenon called ground effect. Ground effect describes the rise in aerodynamic lift and reduction in drag which occurs when an aircraft flies in close proximity to the ground. The Mobula exploits the high-lift, low-drag aspects of ground effect by safely flying close to the surface of the sea. This transition allows for a high top speed, large interior space, and far more efficient fuel usage.Vehicles like the Mobula go by several different names and acronyms including; GEV (ground effect vehicle), WIG (wing-in-ground-effect), flarecraft and sea-skimmer. But perhaps the best known name is ekranoplan. Ekranoplans have been in development since the cold war, and both the USSR and US military's produced a number of vehicles for both testing and potential deployment. Unfortunately, despite the huge benefits offered by ekranoplans they remain an unusual form of transport, and only a small number of civilian and military ekranoplans are currently in service. However the recent drive towards more environmentally friendly modes of transport could help fuel ekranoplan development in the future
The exterior design of the Mobula was developed through the notion of pure form and enters the realm of bio-design - which lends itself perfectly to aerodynamic form. The wing was developed in a wind tunnel to create the most efficient shape for low altitude flying. The winglets (flicked up area on each end of the wing) are smooth and mimic a ray’s progression through the water, whilst also increasing the wings overall efficiency. The windows which run parallel to the ground and curve around the rear of the vehicle are designed to mimic the appearance of the rays gills. Located on the leading edge of the wing is the cockpit to allow for maximum visibility.When creating the Mobula, Cooke was careful not to just draw a pretty shape. He spent much time working out the practicalities of such an unusual vehicle and just how it could operate. Every aspect of the design has been taken into consideration including the 4 exterior hulls that enable mobula’s huge payload to gently float on the surface of the water. When in the water the hulls expand to match the weight of the craft, and deflate during flight to minimise drag. Hydrofoils are deployed from the bottom of the hulls during takeoff to minimise drag.
The interior of the Mobula has been configured to allow for 1000 passengers based over 5 decks and in three separate classes. The seating encourages comfort on long journeys and incorporates a suspension system as seen in some trucks to maximise passenger comfort during turbulence. Other features include drink and snack vending in-between seats during flights, TV’s, in-chair storage and under floor footrests to enable flatbed posture.
While the Mobula is a radical, futuristic and advanced concept in terms of its design and the theory's behind it, sadly its extreme complexity and the sheer cost of developing the vehicle through to production mean that it is almost guaranteed to remain a concept. However it is great to see that professional designers are looking to unique and alternative forms of transport to help solve some of the worlds energy problems. And if similar vehicles where in the future to provide regular, scheduled transport back-and-forth across the the worlds oceans it would be one of the most significant changes to mass transport since the commercial jetliner.