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Transportation Technology

Dirigible Airship Prototype Approaches Completion 231

Posted by samzenpus
from the float-away dept.
cylonlover writes "The dirigible airship, the oddball aircraft of another era, is making a comeback. California-based Aeros Corporation has created a prototype of its new breed of variable buoyancy aircraft and expects the vehicle to be finished before the end of 2012. With its new cargo handling technology, minimum fuel consumption, vertical take-off and landing features and point to point delivery, the Aeroscraft platform promises to revolutionize airship technology. The Aeroscraft ship uses a suite of new mechanical and aerospace technologies. It operates off a buoyancy management system which controls and adjusts the buoyancy of the vehicle, making it light or heavy for any stages of ground and flight operation. Automatic flight control systems give it equilibrium in all flight modes and allow it to adjust helium pressurized envelopes depending on the buoyancy requirements. It just needs one pilot and has an internal ballast control system, which allows it to offload cargo, without using ballast. Built with a rigid structure, the Aeroscraft can control lift at all stages with its Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) capabilities and carry maximum payload while in hover. What makes it different from other cargo vehicles is that it does not need a runway or ground infrastructure."
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Dirigible Airship Prototype Approaches Completion

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  • Every decade event (Score:5, Insightful)

    by esldude (1157749) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @12:36AM (#42200905)
    Seems this comes up every decade or so. There are some advantages in niches. But in the end, the large volume craft, at relatively slow speeds, and relatively less useful when winds are up seem to doom it from becoming a highly useful aircraft.
    • by AlphaWolf_HK (692722) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @12:42AM (#42200927)

      You have to wonder though if it will ever become more practical than traditional cargo ships. I imagine it would take less energy to stay airborne (given that it relies upon buoyancy rather than thrust) therefore making it more energy efficient than a jumbo jet, and might need less energy to stay in motion than a watercraft given the lower resistance of the air vs water.

      Sure, you might need more of them, but pound for pound can it cost less to transport the goods than a cargo ship? I imagine if they added solar power, that would wipe out much of the operating cost. (Plus I've heard something like current cargo ships have a much larger carbon footprint than most of the world's cars combined.)

      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 06, 2012 @12:51AM (#42200973)

        Short answer: no, airships will always be less efficient than water ships.

        The volume of air that must be displaced vs. volume of water is so much greater than any airship yard you find would be the size of Arkansas. Those steampunk airships you see? They would have to have buoyancy chambers orders of magnitude larger than depicted to float.

        As a matter of fact, the vast majority of the fluid resistance encountered by container ships is the containers themselves on top, since the hull can be made very low-resistance, but boxes cannot. Their fuel efficiency issues stem exclusively for extremely weak regulations on emissions.

        So no, airships will always be tourist attractions. No one wants to pay more money to transport things less quickly.

        • by mveloso (325617)

          "So no, airships will always be tourist attractions. No one wants to pay more money to transport things less quickly."

          If it's faster than a container, slower than air freight, and has a price to match, there will be a market for it.

          Realistically speaking, though, they don't seem to lift very well. I'm looking at the O-1 airship: 177 feet long, cargo weight of 3290 lbs. That's pretty lame. The soviet V6 was 344ft and could to 20k lbs...which is less than 1/3 the maximum weight of a 20-foot container.

          However,

          • by SomePgmr (2021234)

            According to the wiki entry this is more of a technology demonstrator, with a number of much larger, practical models in the works. 20, 60 and 500 ton capacity, and can be converted to carry people.

            At 120 knots, they're not fast, but if the cost works out that you can take a longer, more comfortable flight, more like traveling by large boat, some might prefer it over a traditional flight for vacation destinations and such.

            • Re:FedEx (Score:4, Informative)

              by wvmarle (1070040) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @02:07AM (#42201285)

              Try landing any of those in a typhoon, for 500 ton lifting capacity the blimp must be huge, and no matter how streamlined it's going to catch a lot of wind. Keeping them grounded in a typhoon will be a tall order even.

              • I remember when a blimp got away during a storm over Melbourne. The TV crew got some great footage of the horizon swinging around by 180 degrees every few seconds.

            • Re:FedEx (Score:5, Insightful)

              by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 06, 2012 @02:56AM (#42201471)

              I can imagine that they could be used for transporting things that right now there is no easy way to move.

              For example, mining trucks are limited in size by their tires. Since tires must be shipped from the factory in one piece, they can't be more than about 4-5m in diameter or they wouldn't be able to be transported by road. If you could transport them in the air, size would be irrelevant. At 6 tons times 6 tires, you would need a payload capacity of 36 tons to be able to move the tires from the factory to the mine site.

              Another example is oil fields and mines in Alaska and nothern Canada. Since there no roads going to them, equipment can only be moved in the winter when the land and lakes are frozen solid. With an airship, they could move equipment all year long. With a 60 ton capacity, it would be able to haul more than a tractor-trailer, and at 120kt it would go significantly faster too.

              dom

            • At 120 knots, they're not fast, but if the cost works out that you can take a longer, more comfortable flight, more like traveling by large boat, some might prefer it over a traditional flight for vacation destinations and such.

              Fast air travel is cheap because you don't have to pay high labor costs for more than a few hours. Slow air travel would be as expensive as living in a hotel for the duration of the flight, as is sea travel.

              • by SomePgmr (2021234)

                It says these require one pilot. It looks like attendants make about $40/hr. Google says the fuel cost in a 777 is about $10,000/hr. and I'm going to guess the maintenance on these is somewhere south of a commercial airliner.

                So I'm guessing the labor cost isn't really that big of an issue, even if the flight time is 4x's as long. Obviously I haven't seen actual operating expenses on the non-existent craft we're talking about... so I'm just speculating.

              • by h4rr4r (612664)

                Living in a hotel for a few days is a lot cheaper than an airplane ticket across a major ocean.

                From NYC to London is 5500km at 120kt that would take just under two days. Even if it took 3 days and cost $250 a night it would still be competitive price wise with that flight.

          • by Coisiche (2000870)

            However, as a large semi-stationary platform it would be ideal.

            For whom?

            In pondering this, I see many more sinister applications than civilian ones.

        • This isn't a traditional airship though, while they avoid explicitly saying it, its a heavier than air model, which means the volume needed is a lot less.

          http://www.aeroscraft.com/#/aeroscraft/4567337667 [aeroscraft.com]

          I can see there being a growing market for these things, as they circumvent the need for docks of just about any description. Moving cargo past the coastline and faster than a cargo ship, as well as not being bound to shipping lanes, has to have a fairly sizeable niche.

          • They claim to have technology to go from heavier than air to lighter than air and back, to my mind that involves having some kind of compressor on board that can suck Helium out ouf a buoyancy bag and into a pressurized gas bottle. This is an obvious solution, the Zeppelin engineers of old would have done it but there was no way they could make it light enough. They must have some sort of advanced materials or composites that make this possible (if they're not lying fraudsters like other companies that have
      • by dbIII (701233)
        Some events during the circumnavigation of the world by the Graf Zeppelin showed that you really have to be lucky with the weather with something so huge that moves so slowly. The early aviator Wilkes was a passenger and wrote a few things about that that have been reprinted in a few places, but it can be summed up as a hair raising trip dodging bad weather.
        Then again, while that one couldn't get above bad weather maybe something more recent may be able to. While high strength aluminium alloys today are v
      • by A nonymous Coward (7548) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @03:06AM (#42201511)

        Think of them as more efficient higher capacity longer range helicopters.

      • Cargo ships are extremely efficient at what they do. They may have a large carbon footprint, but they have a very low carbon footprint per kg of goods transported compared to your car.

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          They may have a large carbon footprint, but they have a very low carbon footprint per kg of goods transported compared to your car.

          Whether that's true or not, the biggest problem with cargo ships is that they are extremely polluting. They run on a lower grade of diesel than do other things and have no emission controls.

          • There could be easy environmental savings by making them run on cleaner fuel, possibly. But there are no easy savings by switching to other transport methods, because there's nothing that can remotely compete.

      • The raw CO2 figures look pretty big on paper, but are meaningless without comparing the CO2 emissions of the various modes of transport in terms of something like tonne/kilometer. Check out the second table here:

        https://people.exeter.ac.uk/TWDavies/energy_conversion/Calculation%20of%20CO2%20emissions%20from%20fuels.htm [exeter.ac.uk]

        (NB: seems to be an error in the second table header. Given the actual data units, I think it should say "KG CO2 per KM")

        The results here are fairly varied in the final units they come out wit

      • On some routes, the dirigibles will definitely be better than the traditional boats. Such as the Chicago - Denver route, or almost all of the Moscow - Anywhere routes.

        One factor not mentioned in TFA was whether these dirigibles will be all weather aircraft, or will be blue sky only aircraft. That will have an impact on their ability to compete with truck and rail freight.

    • Well for starters it can drastically simplify logistical supply chains.... Right now if you want to ship something you either have to do air(insanely expensive) or some combination of ship, rail, and road(usually on both ends, i.e. factory -> rail -> road ->sea -> rail->road->destination) The airship is able to take advantage of existing air fields, so theoretically you could just go factory -> airship -> destination(obviously with a tiny bit of road to get it from the airport to th
    • by Hentes (2461350)

      I think the big use would be commercial transport. Ships are slow too but are used for transport because they are so cheap. If airships can be made cheap enough, they could replace trucks.

    • by nospam007 (722110) *

      "Seems this comes up every decade or so."

      Indeed. Wake me up when one of them is attached to the top of the Empire State Building.

      At least then it will freak out Fringe watchers, who will believe they are in an alternate universe.

    • by Quila (201335)

      I'm thinking high-altitude ski lift poles. Right now they use heavy cargo helicopters that are rather expensive to run.

  • For some reason, it [gizmag.com] reminds me of something [bbc.co.uk]
  • by cervesaebraciator (2352888) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @12:40AM (#42200917)
    Given all the articles I've read about helium shortages et al., I'm not sure I'd invest in a company that claims He based dirigibles are about to make a comeback.
    • There is always hydrogen. Sure it has a bad rap, but can't we make hydrogen more safer?
      Automatic pressure release. Static control materials, etc.

      I don't see why hydrogen - although it is very dangerous - has been abandoned as an alternative.

      • by meglon (1001833)
        Because we can't make hydrogen more safe. The explanation for why it was abandoned is pretty simple: Hindenburg. Admittedly there were a variety of other mishaps, and the Hindenburg wasn't even the worst, but it was the one that the news media had the best coverage of.
        • by Zorpheus (857617) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @01:58AM (#42201253)
          The Hindenburg disaster was spectacular, but was it really that bad? Nearly 2/3 of the people on board survived.
          And I am wondering how much more safe this could be built. The Hindenburg consisted of hydrogen-filled cells which were located within the air-filled hull. Seems rather stupid to me to build it this way, since only the confined air allowed hydrogen and air to mix without ascending away from the airship. The other thing was that the hull was burning very well since it was soaked in linoleum oil. In a TV report it was actually claimed that the fire we see is only the burning hull, since a hydrogen flame is invisible.
          Where is the danger if hydrogen coming out of a leak would just ascend and get diluted quickly in the air? The pure hydrogen in the cells can not burn.
          • by wvmarle (1070040) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @02:17AM (#42201335)

            The Mythbusters did an episode on the Hindenburg. Indeed because what you see burn is the outer hull. Hydrogen burns, burns fast, and is gone fast. It doesn't explode unless mixed with air - the Hindenburg didn't explode, it just burned really fast.

            Well long story short: the Mythbusters found out that the hull of the Hindenburg (just like the other Zeppelins at the time) was coated in something that closely resembled thermite, making it highly flammable. The hull on its own burned well, but the combination with hydrogen is what made it go really fast.

            Now sure there is a lot to say about their methods, and the rather shallow research, but the conclusion is quite clear: it was not just the hydrogen, it was not just the coating, it was the combination of the two. Somehow the hydrogen acts as catalyst boosting the burning of the outer hull. Only when they burned a coated hull filled with hydrogen they got a burn that resembled the Hindenburg disaster.

            Hydrogen will always be a fire risk, but it can be lessened by making the hull non-flammable. Something that we can do, but the Germans at the time not, or at least not as easily. Whether we can make it safe enough for modern standards, that is another matter.

            • The root cause of the Hindenburg disaster seems to have been a loss of structural integrity when the aircraft made a sudden turn before landing. The turn ruptured a gas bag and released hydrogen into the atmosphere, Other airship designs are vulnerable to this as well. But I have an idea: lets fill it with vacuum.

              • Good idea. Now we just need to figure out how to be able to build it light enough to fly while being strong enough not to get crushed by the air pressure.

                • by c0lo (1497653)

                  Good idea. Now we just need to figure out how to be able to build it light enough to fly while being strong enough not to get crushed by the air pressure.

                  Simple: build them in stratosphere, where the air pressure is already lower.

                  • And at the same time their lift would also be lower - needing an even lighter construction.
                    And what use would giant balloons be, if they were unable to ever land or even reduce their altitude?

        • It was the coating on the ship, not the he that made it a disaster.

        • by tmosley (996283)
          We can't make airplanes more safe. The explanation for why they should be abandoned is pretty simple: Amelia Earhart.
        • Hydrogen wasn't the Hindenburg's downfall. It was the diesel fuel. At low pressure hydrogen is relatively benign. Hydrogen however, is somewhat harder to contain, and can embrittle metal.
      • There is always hydrogen. Sure it has a bad rap, but can't we make hydrogen more safer?

        Oh I know, mix it with nitogen!

    • by afidel (530433)

      If Helium had any economic value we'd be capturing literally tons of the stuff right now, all sorts of natural gas production is going on and I'd assume some non-trivial percentage of those wells contain a decent percentage He, but even though natural gas is at an alltime low due to a massive supply glut nobody is bothering to capture what should be a value biproduct because the government has been selling the stuff at a below-cost-to-produce pricepoint for decades. Sell off the reserves or start selling it

    • We just need to get fusion to work on such a scale that we convert enough hydrogen to helium to make it work.

      Can't find how much energy we would need to produce to make enough helium to make a significant contribution, nor how hot this planet would become (each TWh produced must be radiated away). It may be so much energy that we'd be swimming in molten rock to get a decent amount of helium.
  • by dorpus (636554) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @12:43AM (#42200931)

    Every year, without fail, there is an article about the blimp renaissance. Been that way since the 1930s. Akron calls itself the blimp capital of the world. I remember a college job fair where there was some kooky company from Quebec that made hydrogen-filled blimps, and they insisted that hydrogen is not flammable.

    • by dorpus (636554)

      And I remember a demonstration from a chemistry 101 class where a professor put a blowtorch to an air-filled balloon vs. a hydrogen-filled balloon. The latter had a much louder explosion.

      • And I remember a demonstration from a chemistry 101 class where a professor put a blowtorch to an air-filled balloon vs. a hydrogen-filled balloon. The latter had a much louder explosion.

        If it exploded, then it wasn't filled with hydrogen, but rather a mixture of hydrogen and air. If the hydrogen was pure, it would have burned, and quickly, but there would have been no "bang".

        Hydrogen is flammable, but since it rises quickly, it is less dangerous than gasoline vapor. Over a billion people safely use gasoline everyday.

        • The problem with hydrogen, of course, is that it burns at a wide range of concentrations - from 4 to 75%, according to Wikipedia. Gasoline only burns at between 1.4 and 7.5% in air. So a hydrogen leak is far more likely to catch fire or explode than a gasoline leak.

        • by wvmarle (1070040)

          The BALLOON explodes, not the hydrogen.

          The extra bang comes thanks to the quick burning of the hydrogen - when the balloon bursts, the hydrogen is like a cloud in the air, and for a short while can be ignited. Which is exactly what that blowtorch does. When the balloon bursts the hydrogen will instantly ignite, and burn really rapidly, causing the louder "boom" you hear.

          • by azalin (67640)
            The usual setup for this "experiment" would consist of a Hydrogen only and a Hydrogen+Oxygen filled balloon. An air filled third balloon might be optional, but doesn't really make much sense. Fill them, let them rise to the ceiling, attach a candle to a stick, place burning candle under balloon. While the first might be slightly louder than an air filled balloon, the second one will be substantially.
            • by wvmarle (1070040)

              I don't think you really want to explode a whole balloon full of hydrogen+oxygen. At least not if you value your ears, and your windows. A 5-8 cm soap bubble of the stuff gives a pretty serious bang already...

              • I've done it. Party balloon, filled from an electrolysis source. The bang is indeed quite loud. I was about two meters away (Arm + meter-stick-with-candle-on-the-end) and didn't take any ear damage.

  • by muecksteiner (102093) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @12:45AM (#42200945)

    For niche markets, that is. Such as point-to-point delivery of oversized and/or very heavy loads that are simply not transportable by road. A rugged and dependable vehicle of this kind could probably sell some dozen copies across the U.S., and even more world-wide. If these guys are sensible about their corporate cost structure, and do not base their expenditure on expectations of selling thousands of the things, they could be just fine, and be in this for the long run.

    If their basic airship design is sound, of course. But it probably is - getting that sort of thing right is not *that* hard. They could do fairly nicely working examples in the 1920ies (provided they did not fill them with Hydrogen, but fire protection should be a no-brainer these days).

    And the worst enemy of airships, the weather, is now firmly under control from an operational viewpoint - something it was absolutely not back then. Weather forecasts are so accurate nowadays that such vehicles can just reliably avoid those areas where they could get into trouble. One would not be operating scheduled services that have to be at some point at a given time with them anyway. With these specialised heavy lifters, you would rather be delivering oversized pieces of machinery and such in a one-off fashion. And if one of these things arrives two days late because of a thunderstorm front, it is usually not that much of a problem.

    • That was my first thought too ...

      But then I could not really see why this design would out-perform the helicopter/airship hybrid designs - most of those have thrust vectoring props which seems to be a more responsive system for hover and add the possibility of faster horizontal flight.

      • It probably would not outperform one of those, if something like that existed. But I'm not aware of any such vehicle that is currently operational (or even under active development), in the size/lifting capacity bracket that this company is aiming for?

        In my opinion, the main selling point of their ships would be the lifting capacity of 66 tons. The largest helicopter out there, the Mi-26, can lift 20 tons at most, and has fairly atrocious operating costs per hour. And as stuff increases in weight, so do its

    • by afidel (530433) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @02:14AM (#42201325)

      One obvious use to me is in the delivery of the parts for windmills. Those things are absolutely huge and are pretty much by definition installed in places without a road network. That work alone could probably justify more than a dozen ships since we're expecting to build tens of thousands of windmills in the coming decades.

    • These days, PR reasons are probably the best reasons they shouldn't be filled with hydrogen. We know how to build non-flammable hulls, and even on the Hindenburg, most of the passengers survived (compare that to plane crashes).

      • by martas (1439879)
        Actually most people survive plane crashes: "95.7 percent of people involved in a plane crash actually survive. Even in the most serious class of crashes, more than 76 percent of those on board live to tell the tale" (source [discovery.com])
    • For niche markets, that is. Such as point-to-point delivery of oversized and/or very heavy loads that are simply not transportable by road.

      That's what's been claimed the last three or four dozen times the airship was "poised to make a comeback" (for sure, for real this time). Despite it's breathless tone (which reads as if it were mostly cribbed from the press release and ad copy), I see nothing in the current offering that actually makes it any different.

      The key problem being there isn't exactly

  • by mister2au (1707664) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @12:45AM (#42200947)

    Revolutionary?

    Nope ... just the Segway of the Dirigible world ...

    • It could be r3VOLutionary if only they wrote Ron Paul [xkcd.com] across the side. Though, given his views on the Fed, I think he'd object to its self-inflationary capabilities.
  • by Bruce Perens (3872) <bruce@perens.com> on Thursday December 06, 2012 @01:21AM (#42201105) Homepage Journal
    As you can see on their web site, Airship Ventures [airshipventures.com] is out of business and there's a campaign to save the airship from being scrapped.
    • Very sad, and strange that they couldn't get it working in San Francisco of all places. You'd think there was a better market for it there than in Friedrichshafen, where they have been running a similar operation for some 15 years. Maybe Germany just has more airship nuts still.

      Airships are still too valuable to be "scrapped" like a regular ship, though. Eureka isn't turning into nails... What's going to happen is that the company in Friedrichshafen will get the dismantled ship back, as they sold all their

    • by Sockatume (732728)

      Video from the investor meeting. [youtube.com]

      Poor Mr. Hackenbacker. :(

    • I don't understand what this has to do with the article.

  • by MMORG (311325) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @01:26AM (#42201129)

    Helium is a non-renewable resource, even more so than liquid hydrocarbon fuels. At least with jet fuel you could synthesize it if you really wanted to and had a large enough energy input, but the only way to synthesize helium is to fuse hydrogen in large quantities and if we knew how to do that in a controllable fashion we probably wouldn't need to mess around with dirigibles. Once you extract helium from the ground it eventually ends up in the atmosphere and then escapes to space, so once it's gone it's gone for good.

    • by afidel (530433)

      We're already extracting tons and tons of Helium every year, we're just not bothering to capture it because it has no economic value.

    • It would be easier to breed alpha emitters.

    • 23% of the baryonic mass of the universe is helium, the vast majority created within three minutes of the big bang. According to Wikipedia.

      • Yeap, but here in Earth helium is quite rare. It has a tendency of going away once it reaches the atmosphere.

    • by ShakaUVM (157947)

      >Helium is a non-renewable resource

      Uh, no.

      Helium is produced as a byproduct of radioactive decay. Alpha particles, after all, are just helium nuclei.

      If there was any reason to, we could make helium on demand.

      It's just cheaper to extract it naturally right now.

  • ...If it means I don't have to deal with the TSA!
    • by Coisiche (2000870)

      Good luck then. If it ever does become a commonplace transportation then some lazy and unintelligent legislator is just gong to deem it the same as fixed wing aircraft because they both, like, go into the sky, and therefore subject to the same restrictions.

  • by Catmeat (20653) <mtm@@@sys...uea...ac...uk> on Thursday December 06, 2012 @05:43AM (#42202035)

    I should point out that aside from the Hindenberg, the only time airships ever went down in flames was during World War 1, when they were being shot at. Even then, German Zepplins could take a lot of damage, and it was only when British aircraft started carrying a mixture of explosive and incendiary rounds (called Buckingham and Pomeroy mixture, after the inventors of the two bullet types) that they could feasably destroy a Zeppelin. Even then, aircraft attacking Zeppelins sometimes found themselves firing hundreds of rounds, at a range too close to miss, and having no. Remember, today we don't doubt the safety of 747s, simply because World War 2, B-17 bombers used to come apart when they were shot at enough.

    Also during World War 1, the British operated hundreds of SS Class [wikipedia.org], Coastal Class [wikipedia.org] and NS Class [wikipedia.org], non-rigid blimps. Not a single one was lost to fire during 10's of thousands of flying hours. Admittedly, several WW1 British airships were destroyed in a catastrophic fire in a hanger, but that was because one Darwin Award nominee decided to get busy with testing a radio, while he was standing in a puddle of petrol that was leaking from a broken fuel tank.

    So I'm inclined to write off the Hindenberg as a on-off, at a time when aircraft routinely dropped out of the sky. I might even go so far as to give a tiniest whisker of credence to the conspiracy theory, that it was down to an anti-Nazi saboteur.

    Now, I fully appreciate hydrogen dirigibles will absolutely never, ever, ever, fly again simply because of PR and (well justified) safety fears. But I guess my point is that they could be made safe, or at least, safe enough if there was a need.

    • I'm fairly certain that if naptha was only now being proposed as a motor fuel, it would wisely be banned from the public roadways. Pretty damned dangerous.

    • by Sentrion (964745)

      Counter-examples (plural):

      http://www.airships.net/hydrogen-airship-accidents [airships.net]

      The Hindenburg was just the last and most famous of dozens of fiery hydrogen airship disasters. It was famous because it was one of the first disasters to be reported live over radio broadcast, not to mention the remarkable film and the fact that it was at a time when records were first being made of live broadcasts. The other disasters were just not as publicized, but the Hindenburg captured the attention of the entire world.

      • by Carnildo (712617)

        That list is technically correct, but not useful. It's basically a list of every hydrogen airship where fire played a part in its destruction. For example, it includes LZ-30 (crashed, then the escaping hydrogen caught fire -- it was "destroyed by hydrogen" in the same way that an airplane that crashed and burned was "destroyed by jet fuel"), ZR-2 (broke up mid-flight, the engines caught fire and ignited the hydrogen), and LZ-87, LZ-94, LZ-97, and LZ-105, destroyed in a mysterious hangar explosion (sabotag

  • by Antique Geekmeister (740220) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @07:32AM (#42202513)

    Gaseous hydrogen leaks a great deal, no matter how it's stored. That's a cost that will strongly affect the economy of such aircraft. One could theoretically use the hydrogen for fuel for the propellers or electronic systems safely, so I wouldn't anticipate large problems with carrying enough fuel, but hydrogen molecules are very small and tend to leak right through pressure containers. And as the hydrogen leaks, it will tend to collect in any physical reservoirs around the gas bag. That could make preventing flammable buildups, especially near modern electrical systems, quite awkward.

    Hydrogen is also quite reactive. (This is partly why it burns so well.) So I'd expect corrosive surprises with materials used in such an unusual environment, especially if low-cost bidders substitute cheap components that haven't been tested properly in the infrastructure exposed to the hydrogen. This isn't to say it can't be done economically, but the first few such ships are going to be prone to some unexpected failures due to interaction with an unusual environment.

  • Just [wikipedia.org] sayin. [oup.co.uk]

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