A ground-effect vehicle (GEV), also called a wing-in-ground-effect (WIG), ground-effect craft, wingship, flarecraft or ekranoplan (Russian: экранопла́н – "screenglider" ), is a vehicle that is able to move over the surface by gaining support from the reactions of the air against the surface of the earth or water. Typically, it is designed to glide over a level surface (usually over the sea) by making use of ground effect, the aerodynamic interaction between the moving wing and the surface below. Some models can operate over any flat area such as frozen lakes or flat plains similar to a hovercraft.
A ground-effect vehicle needs some forward velocity to produce lift dynamically and the principal benefit of operating a wing in ground effect is to reduce its lift-dependent drag. The basic design principle is that the closer the wing operates to an external surface such as the ground, when it is said to be in ground effect, the more efficient it becomes.
An airfoil passing through air increases air pressure on the underside, while decreasing pressure across the top. The high and low pressures are maintained until they flow off the ends of the wings, where they form vortices which in turn are the major cause of lift-induced drag—normally a large portion of the drag affecting an aircraft. The higher the aspect ratio of the wing (that is, the longer and skinnier it is), the less induced drag created for each unit of lift and the greater the efficiency of the particular wing. This is the primary reason gliders have long and skinny wings.