February 28, 2007 With waterfront property highly prized the world over, we see the amphibious market as one of the next great opportunities – the people with the greatest disposable income will have the greatest need for amphibians. At the same time, new techniques, technologies and materials are yielding a new breed of amphibious craft that are seemingly omnipotent. Most amphibious craft to date have been biased towards performance on land (such as the Splash, Commander, Amphicar, Platypus, Aquada and Humdinger) or water (such as the Aerosan or Sealegs here, and here). Only the Quadski seems to have a balance of performance on both, and it is limited to one, perhaps two people. Now a new technology threatens to seriously disrupt this marketplace. Fast Track Amphibian has entered the development phase for a product line of all-terrain amphibious vehicles using tracks as their means of propulsion on both water and land. Nearly all other amphibians comprise two drive systems – the FastTrack does it all with one, gaining a significant advantage in weight. The patent-pending technology that enables the tracks to work as the sole means of high-speed propulsion on water is unique. It enables a vehicle to “get out of the hole, over the hump and on to the plane from dead in the water. Videos of what this means in the real world can be found here. FastTrack equipped vehicles can start, stop and cruise on water like a boat as well as traverse diverse terrain, from ice and snow to swamps, deep mud, mountains and deserts - all at very high speeds. The first technology demonstrator can achieve 39 mph on water and 55 mph on land, all in comfort thanks to the air shocks and massive suspension system, which can be retracted or extended to suit the circumstance. The technology demonstrator carries six people at high-speed almost anywhere, giving it seemingly limitless opportunity in the areas of recreation, utility, search and rescue, ship-to-shore and military operations. Potential recreational uses include sports and racing, hunting and fishing, wilderness touring and camping. This vehicle will take you up a muddy hill in the forest better than a motorcycle, take swamp and tundra and ice and snow in its stride and enter and exit the water in almost any conditions … it is a genuine all terrain vehicle and transitions from one medium to another seamlessly. It makes very soft, comfortable, water entries at 40 mph and similarly smooth egresses at 20 mph. The first vehicles the company produces for non-military customers will be hand built and custom made for those who can afford to be the first owners of this unique machine. These vehicles will have aggressive styling, two or five place plush seating and 300 plus horsepower for speeds of 60 mph on water and 80 mph on land.
More videos are available here, showing the FastTrack 1 driving down a country road, running on powder snow, pulling two water skiers, on the plane with tracks down and tracks up, a ramp entry into water at over 40 mph, and watch how easily it crosses this river. This short video shows the beastie doing 37 mph on water.
FastTrack 1 uses elongated rubber snow mobile tracks and is currently powered by a 148 horsepower snowmobile engine. A 350 horsepower Chevrolet Corvette engine and a hybrid drive train are ready for installation in the Fast Track for a run at the world water speed record for amphibious vehicles later this year.
Testing indicates that speeds of over 60 miles per hour are possible with 250 horsepower. Sponsorships for the water speed record attempt are available. There is also the opportunity to set the Channel Crossing record for tracked amphibians and take the overall amphibious vehicle record currently held by Sealegs. Potential partners and sponsors are invited to contact Ken Wernicke. .
The FastTrack company is not your normal company. Located in Hurst, Texas (between Dallas and Fort Worth), FastTrack was founded by Ken and Rod Wernicke, both retired engineers from Bell Helicopter. Ken led the design and development of the XV-15 and V-22 Osprey tilt-rotors and Rod, his identical twin brother, was also instrumental in the development of tilt-rotor technology. Keith, Kent and Tim, their engineer/inventor sons, are also in the company. Research and development began after the Wernickes answered a Navy request for information on concepts for a scout vehicle that could travel on water at high speed and proceed with all terrain capability for reconnaissance on land. The Wernickes conducted research for ten years before fabricating the first Fast Track vehicle, a full-scale demonstrator model, FastTrack 1.
Two and a half years of land and water testing have proven the concept. FastTrack 1 has pulled two water skiers. It has gone from a standstill to 27 mph with six people on board, and to 39 mph with one.
Also in the works are plans to build a personal sized vehicle -ATV/Snowmobile/Personal Water Craft. This vehicle will be less than half the weight of the FastTrack 1. The potential market for this vehicle is so large that mass production would be needed and FastTrack’s.
Recreational uses for Fast Track Technology include sports, hunting and fishing, wilderness touring and camping. In addition the vehicle can be used by law enforcement for patrolling coastal and border areas. It is ideally suited for flood and hurricane rescue. A hurricane rescue vehicle is envisioned with a 600 hp engine, at a gross weight of 7000 lbs., carrying a crew of two and seating 10 passenger/evacuees. A vehicle of that size would also have multiple military uses.
In addition, there could be revolutionary transport opportunities for utility, cargo and personnel transport for operations in the arctic tundra and other seasonally inaccessible places. Analytical studies indicated that Fast Track technology would be applicable to vehicles as large as 25,000 lb gross weight. Using tracks as the sole means of propulsion has several advantages, over wheel/water jet or propeller amphibians and provides the best all terrain capabilities.
And how much will they cost?
“Price is very much a function of volume,” says FastTrack’s Keith Wernicke. “We think that an ATV/Snowmobile/Personal Water Craft vehicle could sell nearly million copies a year world wide.
“At that kind of volume the price would be approx 50% more than a top of the line Utility ATV. At lower volumes they would cost about as much as a mid priced car.
“The custom car sized vehicle would be in the "If you have to ask you can't afford it" price range of US$250,000 and up.”
FastTrack is seeking suitable partners to help fulfil the market potential of this product. Interested parties should contact Ken Wernicke.