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Transportation

Aeroscraft Begins Flight Testing Following FAA Certification 158

Posted by samzenpus
from the I'm-floating dept.
Zothecula writes "After a 70-year absence, it appears that a new rigid frame airship will soon be taking to the skies over California. Aeros Corporation, a company based near San Diego, has received experimental airworthiness certification from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to begin flight testing the Aeroscraft airship, and it appears that the company has wasted no time getting started."
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Aeroscraft Begins Flight Testing Following FAA Certification

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    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You woudn't have if you'd just RTFA, which BTW was excellent and described a whole lot of the technology that went into this thing. For instance, how it can land without a huge ground crew, why it doesn't take off when cargo is offloaded, why it's necessary in the first place. Its use will be for places like northern Canada and the Australian outback where there's no airport and no landing strip and no infrastructure whatever but where there are a lot of resources like timber and minerals.

      This is one FA you

      • by evilviper (135110)

        Its use will be for places like northern Canada and the Australian outback where there's no airport and no landing strip and no infrastructure whatever but where there are a lot of resources like timber and minerals.

        Northern Canada makes sense, but I'm having a hard time imagining its use in Australia... That's one of the FLATTEST countries on earth, with the EASIEST road construction possible. Building a road involves drawing a line on a map, cutting the brush, and dropping the asphalt, and you might eve

        • by h4rr4r (612664)

          Road on totally flat terrain is still not cheap, you have to truck all that asphalt out there and cut down all that brush. 1 million dollars might get you 10 miles of single lane. More likely half that. Australia is big.

          • I too am still scratching my heads. Canada is amazing expensive – because you can’t just dump asphalt on the ground. Specifically, the mineral mines that lay in the far north. I think most of the road is tundra which is fiendishly tough to build roads on. No exactly a cite but..

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ice_Road_Truckers [wikipedia.org]

          • by evilviper (135110)

            Road on totally flat terrain is still not cheap

            Neither is an airship...

            you have to truck all that asphalt out there and cut down all that brush

            As I said already, you MAY be able to do without the asphalt. Australian truck-train drivers aren't unfamiliar with unpaved dirt roads, and they work reasonably well in the outback. They're more likely to get washed-out and impassable for some time, but with low volume trucking (which is surely what we're talking about) that's an easy trade-off to make.

          • by aXis100 (690904)

            It's more like a million per kilometer.

            - If you're building a road in the bush, it's for freight transport, so that means extensive earthworks and groud prep to make it solid enough.
            - Even dry areas have huge flash floods so you need decent drainage too.
            - Plus you have to pay the contrstruction workers big $$$ to build roads in the middle of no-where
            - Plus support infrastructure like construction camps etc.

      • by flyneye (84093)

        ""After a 70-year absence, it appears that a new rigid frame airship will soon be taking to the skies over California..."
        It will be delivering medical marijuana to sun kings stranded poolside in Santa Barbara. Follow the money, jeez, the Canada thing is just publicity. Shhhhhh.

    • a 10 month absence (Score:5, Informative)

      by Geoffrey.landis (926948) on Monday September 09, 2013 @04:19PM (#44802101) Homepage

      ""After a 70-year absence, it appears that a new rigid frame airship will soon be taking to the skies over California..."

      No, not a 70 year absence: a ten month absence. Zeppelin "Eureka" was flying over California from 2008 to 2012.
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Airship_Ventures [wikipedia.org]

      --couldn't make enough money flying sightseeing cruises to pay its way, alas
      http://mountainview.patch.com/groups/business-news/p/airship-ventures-says-goodbye [patch.com]

    • by flyneye (84093)

      So you can see it would be good for delivering Hydrogen, Propane or other fuel gasses to remote locations.I suppose you could fill it with helium and take it to a remote tribe so they can talk like Mickey Mouse, useful stuff. Hope they made it out of aluminum and other non sparking metals. Seems there was a problem with that a while back...

      • These would be very good for windmill installations. And installing the power line towers needed to move the electricity from the wind farm to the city.

        Also for moving drilling rigs to remote dry land sites, and to replace to some truck traffic with a lower cost alternative.

        Think of these new dirigibles as 'go anywhere" barges that don't need rivers.

  • by fustakrakich (1673220) on Monday September 09, 2013 @03:47PM (#44801709) Journal

    What, did they land too hard?

  • by pla (258480) on Monday September 09, 2013 @03:53PM (#44801785) Journal
    "The Aeroscraft airship can compress a certain amount of its lifting gas and put it into fabric tanks, under pressure. The density of the compressed gas is higher so that it is no longer lighter than air, and therefore this airship, unlike any of its predecessors, can change its buoyancy."

    Uhh... That works with submarines because they actually do change their mass-inside-the-hull (and therefore their density) by taking in or dumping out water from the environment around them. With a rigid frame containing just helium, it doesn't matter whether you store the helium in a tank or in the balloon, you have the same total mass inside the footprint of the hull, and therefore the same overall density (for reference, a balloon "containing" a vacuum would have more buoyancy than even one using Hydrogen).

    Not to say they couldn't have found a solution to that particular problem, but the explanation given... Doesn't solve that problem.
    • by h4rr4r (612664) on Monday September 09, 2013 @03:58PM (#44801857)

      They compress the helium into fabric bags, then this makes the some of the gas cells/bags inside the rigid frame deflate, that deflated volume is replaced with air. Then when you need to become lighter you allow the Helium to go back into the gas cell/bag and thus the bag inflates pushing the air out of the craft.

      If they could do what you are suspecting is going on they would have no need for helium. They could just have a big rigid bag of vacuum.

      • by wcrowe (94389) on Monday September 09, 2013 @04:39PM (#44802331)

        They could just have a big rigid bag of vacuum.

        What if their vacuum is bagless?

        Sorry, I couldn't help it.

      • That was my thought too. They claim "A rigid airship has a stiff outer frame that maintains its aerodynamic shape regardless of the amount of helium inside the ship.". But there must be some sort of internal bladder system that they are leaving out of the description. Very poor article though without that key piece of information clearly stated.
        • by Immerman (2627577)

          I believe internal gas bladders within the outer skin is a standard feature of all dirigibles - that's the only way you can vary the density/buoyancy to change altitude without changing the shape of the rigid airframe that defines a dirigible. Without the rigid airframe you have a blimp, not a dirigible.

          • Indeed. I'm lucky enough to have flown in one, and discussed the system with the pilot. They're used for trim and buoyancy both; inflate or deflate bladders to shift the helium forwards or backwards inside the envelope. Inflate both bladders to decrease buoyancy. Deflate both bladders to increase buoyancy. (And in addition, adjust quantity of sandbags in hatches underneath the passenger cabin to get the craft approximately at neutral buoyancy before liftoff.)

            I'm failing to see what's unique here, tbh.

            ht [wikipedia.org]
            • by Immerman (2627577) on Monday September 09, 2013 @07:35PM (#44803753)

              I think the new part is partially that the gas is re-compressed rather than vented in order to reduce buoyancy, and mostly that it's designed with vectored-thrust engines that allow it to land and take of while heavier-than-air, drastically increasing stability and safety - I believe the majority of historical airship accidents are involved with those narrow, high-risk operating windows.

              • by fnj (64210)

                Correct. The issue that those of us who have familiarity in the field have with Aeros is how their design could possibly handle rapidly changing, gusty winds on landing and takeoff. Not necessarily violent winds. Very moderate winds which are changeable.

              • If you looked at my link, you should have seen that it, too, has vectored thrust engines. That's hardly unique. And nor is recompressing, AFAIK. The only reason that the Skyship 600s don't recompress is because they're using a readily-available commodity (external air) in the gas bladders, so it is unnecessary to store it. Doing so would be a waste of energy. You simply use more outside air to fill the bladders as needed.
                • by Immerman (2627577)

                  Ah, missed that. Looking at it now though it seems like a very different design:
                  - They mention maintaining a necessary envelope pressure, suggesting that it's a blimp rather than a zeppelin which has a rigid frame typically operated at roughly ambient pressure. Essentially the pumping of air seems to be just to keep the airfoil inflated as the ambient pressure changes. The Aeroscraft on the other hand actually alters their buoyancy so that they can become substantially heavier than air. That's the uncom

            • by fnj (64210)

              I also flew in a blimp and talked to the pilot and other personnel; also studied the theory and technology at length. If you are talking about a blimp or a Zeppelin NT, you couldn't possibly be more wrong about decreasing or increasing buoyancy by using the ballonets (what you call "bladders"). That's not what they do at all. They have zero effect on overall static lift; none; nada. They are for fore-aft trim, as you say, but primarily they are to keep the pressure in the envelope constant as the helium exp

              • And what happens to helium as temperature changes? Its volume changes too. And what happens when its volume changes? Its density changes. And what happens when its density changes? You guessed it. The buoyancy of the blimp changes.

                Did I say it was for instantaneous buoyancy change to climb or descend? No. You just made that assumption. It isn't used for that, as you note. It is, however, correct to state that the buoyancy is changed. I will grant you that it is close to 15 years since I got to fly in it,
      • by necro81 (917438)

        They could just have a big rigid bag of vacuum

        That would be the ultimate. Unfortunately, it is presently beyond our capabilities to construct a container of appreciable volume (or many, many tiny ones put together) that can withstand a vacuum (i.e., ~10^5 Pa of positive pressure) while still weighing less than the displaced air (about 1.2 kg / m^3 at sea level and room temperature).

    • That works with submarines because they actually do change their mass-inside-the-hull (and therefore their density) by taking in or dumping out water from the environment around them.

      And it works here because they actually do change their mass-inside-the-hull (and therefore their density) by taking in or dumping out *air* from the environment around them.

      • by Deadstick (535032)

        True, strictly speaking, but overcomplicated. The interior of the hull not occupied by gas cells is vented outside, so the volume of the hull is irrelevant. Only the volume of the sealed portion -- i.e., the gas cells and associated plumbing -- counts in determining the buoyancy. If the total weight of the ship divided by the sealed volume is less than the density of ambient air, the buoyancy will be positive.

        • But the point to the rigid hull is to maintain favorable aerodynamic properties.

          Especially in near-ground operations.
          • by Deadstick (535032)

            The hull is rigid, but it's supported by structural members, not by internal gas pressure.

    • by sjames (1099)

      It's not a rigid frame containing just helium. It's a rigid frame containing non-rigid gas cells that can expand or contract based on the amount of helium in them. Compress helium from the cells into a pressure tank and let (heavier) air enter the airframe to make up the volume.

    • by Deadstick (535032)

      What pla said. A dirigible is not a gasbag. It has its lifting gas in many individual cells, and the outer envelope is vented to atmosphere; if you look around the Net, you can find pictures of Hindenburg crewmen walking around inside it on catwalks with the gas cells all around them.

      Connect hoses to the cells, and you can compress gas from them into a rigid tank, whereupon the cells get smaller and the closed volume of the ship does likewise.

      • by fnj (64210)

        Actually what you said applies to a rigid airship specifically. A dirigible is simply a lighter than air craft which can move independent of the wind and directly control its flight path (contrasted to a balloon). I.e., a synonym for "airship". Dirigible simply means "capable of being steered" [merriam-webster.com]. A blimp is just as much of a dirigible as a rigid airship is. I realize popular usage of the word has become completely bogus.

  • The Spokane area is all aflutter with some "megaload" controversy about shipping some water treatment equipment to a mine in Canada over some "scenic" roads.

    http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2013/aug/14/megaload-fight-headed-federal-court/ [spokesman.com]

    Driving this stuff over mountain roads is apparently the only method of getting equipment of this size to the location where it's needed. I realize this is bigger than the airship is capable of lifting but I'd bet there are plenty of other situations where this would be a

  • What do they fill it with? If it is rigid, then couldn't it be a vacuum since that would give the most buoyancy? Or perhaps an aerogel?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vacuum_airship [wikipedia.org]

    • by pr0t0 (216378) on Monday September 09, 2013 @04:01PM (#44801905)

      Popcorn, obviously.

    • Helium, It's in TFA.

      In terms of alternatives: I think the dangers of hydrogen have been overstated but I don't think there's much likelihood of anyone switching to that in the near future, and there's also its corrosive effects on iron to consider. Vacuums? Until someone can come up with a lightweight container that's able to withstand an atmosphere of air pressure (which is much more than you might think) it's not going to happen.

      • by dbIII (701233)

        and there's also its corrosive effects on iron to consider

        It's not really "corrosive" because that's an oxidation thing - but it does really fuck up welds if it gets in. There are ways around it to the point that high pressure hydrogen gas cylinders are made of steel and they have no problems. Also Iron is pretty heavy stuff so not much has ever been used in airships. The stuff that aluminium alloy bikes are made from today (and a lot of aircraft parts) is often within spec of the "duralumin" used in air

        • corÂrode
          kÉ(TM)ËrÅd/
          verb
          verb: corrode;âf3rd person present: corrodes;âfpast tense: corroded;âfpast participle: corroded;âfgerund or present participle: corroding

          1.
          destroy or damage (metal, stone, or other materials) slowly by chemical action.
          "acid rain poisons fish and corrodes buildings"
          synonyms: wear away, eat away (at), gnaw away (at), erode, abrade

          • Oh sorry - I thought you wanted an engineer's perspective instead of poetic licence. Just about anything taken out of context can mean just about anything, but that just fucks up communication. In this context corrosion means oxidation and nothing at all else.
    • by sjames (1099)

      Birds! When they need to descend, they sprinkle birdseed on the floor, when they need to ascend, someone shoos the birds.

  • by evilviper (135110) on Monday September 09, 2013 @04:08PM (#44801989) Journal

    We have shows like Ice Road Truckers about dangerous, expensive, and time-limited freight delivery in the Artic circle because impassable terrain most of the year... And at the opposite end of the globe, the 1,000 mile-long McMurdo â" South Pole Highway constructed over 4 years at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars with lots of ongoing maintenance... And also consider the manifold poor remote villages that are often starving and suffering after natural disasters because they are accessible only by foot (or mule) due to mountainous terrain over which road construction would be astronomically expensive...

    All these scenarios, because flying-in heavy items via conventional aircraft over long distance can consume twice their weight in jet fuel.

    Airships can no-doubt fundamentally change the arithmetic of delivering supplies to these hazardous and remote locations. If these airships prove to be reliable heavy-lifters, that consume far, far less fuel, they could generate a LOT of cash from carrying cargo to such difficult destinations, no matter how slow they are to arrive at their destinations.

    • Yes to bad-terrain; no to bad weather.

      The real killer to the age of the Zeppelin wasn't the Hindenberg; it was the continuing series of crashes of airships due to bad weather.

      Zeppelins are fair-weather flyers.

      (with that said, however, with modern weather satellites and predictions, this would be much less of a problem than it was in the 1930s)

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        They hope to use their ability to manage their buoyancy to fix that. Also the fact that this craft is designed as a lifting body. So it could if need be in theory become heavier than air and glide to the ground in poor weather.

        • by dbIII (701233)
          A lot of airships were destroyed on the ground during bad weather. It's not so much a safety issue at that point but it still sucks.
      • Yes to bad-terrain; no to bad weather.

        The real killer to the age of the Zeppelin wasn't the Hindenberg; it was the continuing series of crashes of airships due to bad weather.

        Zeppelins are fair-weather flyers.

        (with that said, however, with modern weather satellites and predictions, this would be much less of a problem than it was in the 1930s)

        Hmmm. I suspect the advent of more reliable fixed wing a/c took the air out (or in, actually) of Zepplin travel as well. I wonder if this new airship will have a high enough service ceiling to avoid a lot of the weather. BTW. Does NOVAAR and ECRM ring a bell?

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        You are correct about the weather problem, but incorrect in suggesting that satellites and computer based weather prediction will do much to fix it.

        Airships have been repeatedly announced and failed to achieve commercial reality, over and over again. This time is no different. An airship is essentially a giant aerodynamic sail. The power to surface area of the vehicle will not allow these airships to fly safely and reliably. Goodyear blimp or no.

        Heavier than air aircraft have a hugely more advantageous

      • by fnj (64210) on Monday September 09, 2013 @09:03PM (#44804297)

        Categorically wrong. No rigid airship built by the Zeppelin company after WW1 suffered any major mishap due to weather, and hardly any of almost 100 flown during WW1 did. The dilettante (UK and US) constructor/operators never developed enough expertise and experience to completely achieve safety in respect to weather like the Germans did. They certainly would have done so if they had more than barely wet their feet in the technology.

        It is utter bullshit that the Zeppelins were "fair weather flyers". Graf Zeppelin (one million miles in nine years) and Hindenburg flew through quite strong weather, including frontal systems and squalls. Often passengers would look down on a violently churning, mountainous sea with huge ships bobbing like corks, while they themselves were walking around or dining, their own wine glasses absolutely undisturbed on the table. Once Hindenburg hooked onto a hurricane to boost her speed by the better part of 100 mph. The structure was not unduly stressed thereby, and the passengers remained in complete comfort.

    • Airships can no-doubt fundamentally change the arithmetic of delivering supplies to these hazardous and remote locations. If these airships prove to be reliable heavy-lifters

      The problem, well known historically but seemingly needing to be rediscovered every twenty years or so, is that airships aren't reliable heavy lifters. They're extraordinarily sensitive to the weather - much more so than any means of transport they replace. Absent heavy and complex propulsion systems (above and beyond that what's need

  • SKY TRUCKERS!!!

  • by Dereck1701 (1922824) on Monday September 09, 2013 @10:54PM (#44804759)

    Its an interesting craft, and I hope it succeeds, but its going to all fall to how the demonstrator performs. They're making some lofty statements, two man crew, 66 tons, minimal ground crew, 120 knots, minimal fuel consumption, 3,000 mile range, etc. If they can hold to it and keep construction/operation costs down it'll be a great craft, but they're obliviously trying to wave around the military applications of the craft so I'd watch out for massive cost overruns, ever decreasing capabilities & constantly extended time tables. Hangering these craft is also going to be an issue, the company seems to be open about the fact that these craft will not be able to handle bad weather, but their "they'll just fly around bad weather" explanation seems questionable even if their speed capabilities are not exaggerated. These things will require massive hangers as I highly doubt just tethering them to the ground would be sufficient protection from even a Midwestern thunderstorm let alone hurricanes or monsoons.

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