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Transportation Technology

Dirigible Airship Prototype Approaches Completion 231

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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  • by AlphaWolf_HK ( 692722 ) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @01:42AM (#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 muecksteiner ( 102093 ) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @01:45AM (#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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 06, 2012 @01:49AM (#42200965)
    1) You need thrust if you want to go anywhere.
    2) The higher resistance of water makes propellers more efficient. It's the reason prop planes have a maximum ceiling.
    3) Not sure how efficient these would be for cargo transport, however they are extremely efficient at sending hundreds of tourists plunging to a spectacular death.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 06, 2012 @02:31AM (#42201155)

    Amtrak is a different business than freight rail, doing quite fine.

    They just had their biggest June ever.

    Keep lying though, nobody will care what frauds you spew as long as you bash unions.

  • by Zorpheus ( 857617 ) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @02:58AM (#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 afidel ( 530433 ) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @03:06AM (#42201275)

    25% of all ton-miles, and 42% of all inter-city freight are carried via rail in the US. The percentage of all freight carried by rail has been increasing with the cost of oil because of the significantly higher efficiency. In fact today the US carries about the same percentage of cargo via rail that the EU does.

  • by wvmarle ( 1070040 ) on Thursday December 06, 2012 @03:17AM (#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.

Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced -- even a proverb is no proverb to you till your life has illustrated it. -- John Keats