I'm working on a science fiction racing game that is centered around hovercraft that will race through various environments, both natural and man-made. I'm trying to establish a design language for these vehicles and I figured the best place to start would be figuring out how they hover and design them from there. This was originally going to be a question about how I achieve lift, but I think I got a workable solution and just need help making sure it's plausible.
Clarification: When I say hovercraft, I don't mean the modern skirted hovercraft. The vehicles I envision would look more like aircraft than hovercraft. I just called them hovercraft because they are going to hover.
My plan is to make it so these vehicles only hover about a meter off the ground, both when they're up to speed and when they're stationary. I also wanted to avoid having them rely on vertical thrust too strongly out a concern about them suddenly becoming VTOL aircraft instead of hovercraft.
I wanted these craft to lose their vertical lift once they're above a certain distance from the ground and enter a sort of controlled fall/glide until they are low to the ground again.
My current plan for how they achieve lift is a two-part solution, but it could end up being reworked if problems present themselves. While at low speeds, a set of thrusters/turbines would provide the vehicle vertical lift to keep it about a meter off the ground (maybe lower, still working out exact ride height.) A set of forward thrusters would push the vehicle forward, up to racing speeds. As the vehicle picks up speed, its aerodynamics would allow it to use the ground-effect to give it lift at the desired ride height. As it generates its own lift, the vertical thrusters/turbines would turn off and the extra power would be stored or diverted into the main engines to allow it to go even faster. The thrusters/turbines might also need to provide supplemental lift when over terrain types that might reduce or break the ground effect.
My question is how do I keep my hovercraft from becoming full on aircraft? What can I do to limit their flight capabilities so they can generate enough lift to get about a meter off the ground without given them the ability to go more than a couple meters off the ground under their own power?
Is limiting the power of the vertical lift thrusters/turbines enough to keep them at a set height? The ground-effect would kind of self-regulate itself in terms of height as the lift is generated by moving close to the ground and would become weaker once it's too high up.