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Aeroscraft dirigible airship prototype approaches completion

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December 4, 2012

The Aeroscraft uses a suite of new mechanical and aerospace technologies

The Aeroscraft uses a suite of new mechanical and aerospace technologies

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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 vehicles is that it does not need a runway or ground infrastructure.

Aeros has been running for 25 years as an airship producer as well as a research and development firm for the aerospace industry.

First, it has to be said that the Aeroscraft is not a blimp and it’s not a hybrid vehicle. And according to Aeros, it’s definitely nothing like the ill-fated LZ129 Hindenburg airship which crashed and burst into flames in New Jersey in 1937.

At the time, the disastrous crash was seen as the end of airships. But technology has marched on. The Aeroscraft is a completely different and radical design. The United States Patent and Trademark office issue assigned a design patent for the Aeroscraft in July 2012. Design elements include a smart automotive digital flight control system, enhanced envelope fabric and a robotic mooring system that make it superior in operations and maintenance. Of course, that means it has a minimum personnel requirement.

Aeroscraft prototype

The vehicle is close to being completely built and ready for operation. The multilayer outer cover application is now in complete and the Aeros expects to finish construction over the next three weeks. The two front horizontal control surfaces, known in the industry as Canards, have been successfully tested and are ready to go.

So what can we expect to see next year?

The Aeroscraft prototype is 79 meters (260 ft) long, and while it is not designed to carry a payload, Aeros says the planned full-scale craft will be almost twice as long and will be capable of carrying a maximum payload of 66 tons with no infrastructure requirements. It is much simpler and easier than using a plane, which has the potential to significantly reduce air freight costs.

The vehicle, which promises to cut fuel consumption by one third of what’s traditionally generated by air freight, is designed to deliver payload directly to point of use, bypassing ports and highways, and taking goods to areas with minimum infrastructure. It has vertical take-off and landing capabilities, the ability to operate at low speed and it can hover from unprepared surfaces. Goods can be off-loaded with minimum ground handling.

Aeros says the vehicle would suit commercial operations and humanitarian missions involving search and rescue, emergency relief and airborne hospitals but the obvious area where we would most likely see it initially would be the military. It would be particularly useful for the Pentagon which is already deploying drones. A stationary or slow moving Aeroscraft could provide constant surveillance, potentially lingering over an area for days at a time.

Significantly, Aeros already has a commercial relationship with the US Army, picking up a contract in July for Technology Enabled Capability Demonstrations (TECD) in areas related to force protection. This involves the shrapnel and fragment resistant flexible panels based on Aeros Interfacial Debonding Energy Absorption (IDEA) fabric technology and portable lightweight structural hybrid truss towers based on Aeros’ composite hybrid truss design and fabrication process.

Aeros has already been talking to USTRANSCOM, the United States Transportation Command which is part of the Department of Defence.

Stay tuned for our in-depth interview with Aeros founder and CEO Igor Pasternak.

Source: Aeros

Editor's note: this article was amended on December 6, 2012 on receiving updated information from the company stating that the prototype Aersocraft is not designed to carry a payload.

About the Author
Leon Gettler An award winning author and freelance journalist with a strong background in newspapers, magazines and podcasts, Leon is passionately drawn to all things innovative and unknown with a deep interest in telecommunications, environmental technology and design. When not indulging his passion for reading and writing, he can be found memorizing lines immortalized by Gerry Mulligan on baritone sax. He lives in Melbourne, Australia.   All articles by Leon Gettler
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70 Comments

A beautiful concept. But these craft will need clearly defined flightpaths that do not coincide with regular aeroplanes. Imagine driving on an expressway and then trying to evade a bullock cart. The low speeds could pose serious safety concerns.

Nantha
4th December, 2012 @ 07:58 pm PST

This sounds fantastic. I would imagine that one of its greatest uses could be for commercial cargo transport in and around cities. Carrying goods directly from ports to their destinations and replacing many of the trucks that currently have to navigate busy roadways.

Andrew McIntosh
4th December, 2012 @ 09:59 pm PST

When we make these much larger, wind will rotate about the shadow cast upon the ground, making these useful for moving fresh water to the interior.

Operate enough of these high enough, and global warming will go poof, too.

Facebook User
4th December, 2012 @ 10:07 pm PST

Nantha, you'd be surprised how quick the Aeroscraft actually is. What would you guess it's speed is, if it is such a concern? 20 mph? 30? Well, actually, the top speed is 140 mph, which combined with the typical altitude it flies at, puts it roughly on par with a small single-engine airplane like a Cessna, or a large cargo helicopter.

Regular airplanes fly miles above.

J. James
4th December, 2012 @ 10:28 pm PST

I can why the Hindenburg is brought up every time a dirigible article is written, but looking at how tens of thousands of people have since died in regular aircraft, the 35 people who perished on the Hindenburg is really paltry.

Satviewer2000
4th December, 2012 @ 11:15 pm PST

@ J. James, yes you have a point that 140 mph seems pretty decent. Although compared to a regular airliner it would be about a quarter of that speed. And, as cargo vehicles there would be quite a number of them which means that there should be many of them in the air. At their lower speeds, each of these craft will be in the air for a long time, before getting to their destinations. This translates to many craft in the air at any one time. And they will be akin to lumbering giants, with huge payloads that will not be able to change direction quickly. The term airship quite accurately describes the way these these things move, with lots of momentum and inertia.

I have always been a fan of airships but with today's world requiring huge amounts of goods transported, the new concern will be IN-TRANSIT air congestion. These craft would probably be best used over sea or vast areas of emptiness, in a role between a ship and a plane.

It would be lovely to cruise in one of these over the Antarctic or Himalayas, if they can brave the weather.

Nantha
5th December, 2012 @ 12:43 am PST

This is nothing new, 7 years ago a prototype was released in the UK named SKYCAT. Great concept for passengers and cargo but the project still did not take off...the cost savings and economies of scale are there. No airports required, point to point delivery. One can only wonder why this is still in prototype phase.

Donny Bos
5th December, 2012 @ 03:14 am PST

For transportation, there is a clear advantage for airships - 40% of fuel is spent by planes for taking off & landing. For short distances also, there is no need for long strips, etc. ...

Dan Vasii
5th December, 2012 @ 04:19 am PST

The Hindenburg disaster occurred not because "technology moved on" BUT because the US refused to supply the Germans with helium, forcing them to use highly volatile hydrogen..

Tim Collins
5th December, 2012 @ 04:22 am PST

Looks a bit like Thunderbird 2! 8)

mick2d2
5th December, 2012 @ 04:29 am PST

I look forward to being able to take a trip in one of these sky ferries.

Hugh Kirk
5th December, 2012 @ 05:33 am PST

If the company could present a solid business case, this could also hit the truck business. There's tons of containers being pushed back and forth onto trucks.

If they can present a viable business model that works out cheaper than sending things by truck (and I mean the whole cost-benefit analysis), I'm sure there's many potential customers out there (my company included) that might want a chat with these guys ;)

Τριαντάφυλλος Καραγιάννης
5th December, 2012 @ 05:34 am PST

re; Tim Collins

The hydrogen lift gas was probably not the cause of the crash and the probability would be higher if the NAZIs had not increased the passenger capacity by putting in larger hydrogen bags and adding staterooms.

The most likely cause of the fire was unbalanced static discharge and extraordinarily flammable doping compound on the fabric skin.

Zeppelins with helium as the lifting gas would have been almost unstoppable bombers.

Slowburn
5th December, 2012 @ 07:10 am PST

@Donny Bos

Actually, this is new. This is not only the fourth manned hybrid airship ever built, it's also the first manned airship with a buoyancy management system and the first large rigid airship built in over 70 years.

And SKYCAT did take off, what are you talking about? Their massive 300-foot-long airship, the largest aircraft in the world, flew back in August. They're currently working on even larger airships, now rebranded AIRLANDER, capable of carrying 50 tons to 200 tons.

@Nantha the maneuverability is not an issue. These aircraft have vectored thrust and large control surfaces which allow them to hover, turn in place, climb at extreme angles, etc. These are not your grand daddy's Zeppelins. Besides, the bulk really isn't that extreme. The Aeroscraft is barely larger than a jumbo jet.

J. James
5th December, 2012 @ 08:19 am PST

I think the increasing cost and scarcity of helium is going to kill this.

lostjr
5th December, 2012 @ 09:16 am PST

I would think the answer is more obvious on savings. Cover them with modern solar cell arrays, or materials which would allow it to generate electricity for all its needs. I would think with the lack of need to push a craft at very high speeds, the power generated from solar collection would be more than sufficient.

yinfu99
5th December, 2012 @ 09:20 am PST

Actually the Hindenburg accident was caused by the paint on its skin and not because of the hydrogen.

pj57
5th December, 2012 @ 09:34 am PST

... just so long as they don't fill it with hydrogen gas!

JAT
5th December, 2012 @ 09:43 am PST

A payload of 66 tons equals two normal truckloads (including trailer or container). And it can fly twice as fast. Somewhere between dedicated OTR and air frieght there may be a niche in time-critical loads that would fit this well. And, or course, it can deliver just about anywhere you would like.

Bruce H. Anderson
5th December, 2012 @ 09:43 am PST

Hello, if you are intrested in following the progression of The Aroscraft follow the Aeros Facebook page at the attached URL:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Worldwide-Aeros-Corp/180735218613257?ref=hl

Ray Cruz
5th December, 2012 @ 10:05 am PST

Gizmag - you keep covering these idiotic concepts that use massive quantities of helium, which likely will not exist in the commercial market in a couple of decades due to its scarcity. Next time ASK if they can run on HYDROGEN or what makes them think they are anything but a hit and run for revenue, leaving customers grounded aftera mere couple of decades, while heavier than air freghters are still going after 50-70 years of service.

And for the record, hydrogen was not the Hindenberg's demise...it was its skin doping that killed the ship.

solutions4circuits
5th December, 2012 @ 10:33 am PST

Let's hope all that nice new technology won't be grounded due to the skyrocketing price of Helium, which is what recently put Airship Ventures in California out of business.

http://www.insidebayarea.com/business/ci_22074333/cassidy-airship-ventures-silicon-valley-zeppelin-idea-is

PatrikD
5th December, 2012 @ 10:46 am PST

Interesting, but how does the variable buoyancy work? Aeros' July patent (D663255) is for "ornamental design" only, no mechanical details. Lockheed Martin managed to get a patent in May of this year (US 8167240) for a variable buoyancy system for an airship, without even explaining how the buoyancy is varied! It includes a fan that can develop a pressure of 4" H2O, enough to change buoyancy by about 1%, but it "compresses" only air, not helium.

Jamie Smith
5th December, 2012 @ 11:11 am PST

@PatrikD, solutions4circuits

For one, this does not use a lot of helium(industry and medicine use far more), and the gas's current shortage is entirely a man-made production crisis. For another, Airship Ventures didn't go out of business because of Helium, as the President Brian Hall explained, it was because they had needed a long-term advertiser since they went into business and they finally failed to acquire one. This, coupled with decreased ticket sales due to the bad economy and to a lesser degree, the helium shortage, is what made them go under. If they were to get a $5 mil advertising contract for a year, they would still be in business. The shortage doesn't exactly help, but it has nothing to do with the fact that their lack of an advertiser is what sunk the business.

The aeroscraft simply does not use Helium in quantities great enough to jeapordise its wide, comfortable margins of economic viability. Look up the absolutely staggering cost of operating a cargo helicopter and compare it to the airship's operating costs. It's a total blowout. That's why Lockheed Martin is also getting into the business.

J. James
5th December, 2012 @ 11:20 am PST

Actually, the Hindenburg disaster has so many rumours running around about it. The Hindenburg was never meant to use Helium. With the lesser buoyancy provided by helium it wouldn't have been able to conduct its mission because it couldn't have carried its design payload.

The skin paint yes, but it is ridiculous to think the conflagration seen wasn't due to the massive amount of highly flammable hydrogen. Without the hydrogen we wouldn't have seen the rapidity with which it propagated and the vast fire ball that accompanied it.

Anyone else have any more information on the Hindenburg?

This is a great idea! I proposed the same a decade ago while in Iraq and everyone looked at me like I was crazy. As a S&R platform it is perfect...except for one problem. When big, big winds kick in you better run and hide with that thing. I doubt we will see them in the numbers where we have to redesign our airspace system but they could certainly be useful in reducing the cost of logging for instance. A CH-47 costs huge dollars per hour to haul lumber. This thing could haul much more at less cost...so they say!

Dr. Veritas
5th December, 2012 @ 11:42 am PST

dirigible cruise ships. Slow is good for that and it could replace all the toxic boats that still dump sewage and garbage in the ocean. People would like it too. Less monotonous than the open ocean. I would go. ♡☝

uhane
5th December, 2012 @ 11:44 am PST

I'm wonder - with all the new insulating and lightweight carbon fiber materials available - why heating air (or whatever might be better) wouldn't be a viable option now. It seems that a bladder that contracts/expands within a lightweight-but-rigid exoskeleton might be possible now. Such a craft might not attain lighter-than-air characteristics, but a hybrid dirigible-plane might make a lot of sense now. I'm not the technical sort, so does anybody have any opinion on this?

Fritz Menzel
5th December, 2012 @ 12:36 pm PST

This airship dependent on helium doesn't make sense because the amount of helium remaining in the world is quickly being depleted. The Hindenburg didn't burn up bedause of its hydrogen, but because of the paint that was used was flamable and caught fire from static electricity. I would suggest the new ship be made to be safe while using hydrogen. If it can't be made safe, then we should not be flying these airships.

Gene
5th December, 2012 @ 12:42 pm PST

Dr. Veritas, the Hindenburg actually WAS intended to use helium at first. The roughly 8% lift difference mattered little to an aircraft of such colossal size. The only reason it was hastily converted to Hydrogen is because the Americans renegged on the Helium deal, fearing invincible Nazi bomber Zeppelins destroying cities, as they did in World War One- but were eventually rebuffed by the Hydrogen weakness. The Nazis, for their part, had no interest in doing so, but this is Congress we're talking about, so they passed the Helium Embargo anyway. Ergo, Hindenburg Disaster.

And yes, the Hindenburg's skin was VERY VERY WEAKLY combustible... But the Hydrogen was the real cause of the conflagration. The skin may or may not have even been a factor at all in igniting the Hydrogen in the first place. Those that believe the Hindenburg's hydrogen had nothing to do with it, rather it was the skin, are refuted with extreme prejudice in this highly educational article on airships.net:

http://www.airships.net/hindenburg/disaster/myths

J. James
5th December, 2012 @ 12:48 pm PST

For a totally different way to have Very Heavy Lift see concordlift.com

The paper was presented at the recent AIAA ATIO conference. Expected to have greater load and lower cost to operate. All the issues identified have known solutions.

Stephen Funck
5th December, 2012 @ 01:18 pm PST

Ok . . . This operates in the same conditions as my Cessna roughly. So it won't be able to climb above and fly over much of the crappy weather we have in that 3000 to 15000 foot level that jumbo jets routinely fly over. How much will common storms affect shipping? There are MANY days out of a year that trucks deliver freight and I couldn't get my Cessna airborne.

PicklePop Flyer
5th December, 2012 @ 01:24 pm PST

The key to this whole thing is the alleged buoyancy control system. Such systems have been claimed for generations, and none has yet worked. I would like to think that Aeros has the answer, but they are delightfully vague about what it is and the laws of physics are against them. I also have strong doubts about their claimed speed - the amount of power required varies as the cube (third power) of the speed, which means the installed power and the fuel consumption have to be monstrous.

piolenc
5th December, 2012 @ 01:48 pm PST

PicklePop Flyer, storms do represent if not a physical threa to the airship, then certainly an economic one. A hybrid such as this could weather the worst storms nature could throw at it- courtesy of its higher power ratio, buoyancy control, vectored thrust and flatter profile. However, because airships start to move backwards as the wind exceeds its speed, the ship would have to use more and more fuel to move at the same pace. So, for practical purposes, they tend to use their weather radar to avoid storms with winds greater than 55 knots altogether by flying around them, which they can afford to do given that their range and endurance is so much more than a small plane's. Essentially, a storm would affect shipping proportional to how many minutes or hours it takes to fly around the storm instead of going through it.

J. James
5th December, 2012 @ 02:15 pm PST

@ Gene

There is no Helium shortage, the US fracking gas and natural gas wells produce vast amounts which are not harvested from the gas produced. Helium 4 is a naturally occuring daughter isotope of Thorium's radioactive decay which is trapped in shales, so while the Earth is radioactive, and the US has gas; it will never run out. Natural gas can have as much as 0.3 - 7 % volume of Helium present, the US currently has an estimated 2,203 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) (http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=58&t=8) of recoverable gas, over 90 years supply ! This gives us at least 6.6 trillion cubic feet of Helium, and those who use it tend to make sure its recycled.

Of course this does nothing about the culture of scarcity, not harvesting Helium because it aids a more efficient competing technology creates an artificial shortage.

L1ma
5th December, 2012 @ 03:16 pm PST

piolenc, the buoyancy control system is essentially the same as what is used by a submarine. They've tested their version already on a different airship and it works. Submarines and the aeroscraft do not "violate the laws of physics" by managing their own buoyancy, and it is quite silly to suggest that they are. In fact, the Aeroscraft's system is even easier than a submarine's, because Helium is less difficult to compress, and the air they take in to compensate volume weighs the ship down even further. They're only compressing it to around the pressure found in a bike tire, inside special fabric-composite cells located safely within the helium chamber.

As for the speed, what is causing your doubts? These people are not stupid, they've been working with airships for decades. They obviously know that the air friction increases exponentially. They know how to predict how much horsepower it will take to move an airship of a certain size at a certain speed. Their current Sky Dragon blimp has a top speed of about 55 mph, with two 100 horsepower engines. The aeroscraft is about twice as wide as the Sky Dragon, yes, but it has all sorts of drag-reduction measures like a retractable gondola and a pusher engine mounted in the ship's wake, in addition to three powerful diesel engines of approximately 300 horsepower apiece, or nearly a thousand combined horsepower. And we're not talking Bugatti Veyron speeds, either. It's 140 mph. Dinky little Cessna speed. Barely faster than most cargo helicopters.

J. James
5th December, 2012 @ 03:30 pm PST

J. James, you are holding your case up well and i must say that from the various comments this airship is close to all our hearts. I hope to see it succeed. Yinfu99 has some great input about solar cells on the whole upper surface which could work very well. And it may also be possible to have computer controlled sails up there. All these could definitely lower fuel costs.

You think when this thing is operational, some of us who commented here might be able to get a free ticket or something?

Nantha
5th December, 2012 @ 04:24 pm PST

Am I the only 1 that thought the words. " No ticket" when they saw this?

Amber Mckee
5th December, 2012 @ 05:26 pm PST

Great for air cargo runs to Asia & EU & for skytours over Hawaii, AZ, TX, CO, MO, TN, OH KS etc.

Stephen N Russell
5th December, 2012 @ 05:58 pm PST

Where's Richard Branson????

This will provide a convenient excuse for UFO sightings no doubt.

paulgo
5th December, 2012 @ 07:54 pm PST

A different take...

How about one of these hovering over a forest fire with 66 tons of water with a delivery system to get the water on the fire ie a large sprayer. This would save a lot of timber and forest and lives.

Just another idea....

S Michael
5th December, 2012 @ 07:57 pm PST

I have heard you can mix Hydrogen and Nitrogen gas to remove flammability and keep lift potential.

Joseph Mertens
5th December, 2012 @ 08:23 pm PST

Nantha this will not cause congestion it will actually alleviate it. No more flying in circles in holding patterns not to mention the thousands of heavy vehlcles taken off our roads together with their associated problems of pollution and road damage. Also think of the freight planes removed from overcrowded skies.

The freight depot infrastructure would be minimal for an airship compared to trditional airports which compared with it's respectful airspeed potentially make it the freight mover of the future. As for making tight turns, well, why would it need to? it's not meant to be a jet fighter or a dodgem car it's a freighter with passenger potential.

dingo
5th December, 2012 @ 08:41 pm PST

Nantha, I think everyone here can agree that the huge, flat area atop the ship would be ideal for lightweight, inkjet-style solar panels. Maybe in the future. Interestingly enough about the sails, there is at least one airship design that can sail into the wind unpowered using a line connected to a special aquatic sea-rudder like device. However, for all other purposes, an airship itself IS like a sail. The only aircraft I know of that was actually equipped with masts and sails was a rather angular-looking flying boat used by the Ottoman Empire in World War One. Sails were for use on the water, of course.

As for getting tickets, well, I don't know about that, but they do have an event soon for the inaugural test flights that is open to the public.

J. James
5th December, 2012 @ 09:25 pm PST

@J. James

I'm surprised about the amount of precise information you have. On Aeros behave, I'd like to appreciate your support by providing precise and very well educated answers that I have the privilege to confirm in their totality.

p.s. I'm Aeros Head of the Control & Systems Engineering Department.

Munir Jojo-Verge
5th December, 2012 @ 11:06 pm PST

Discussion of moving large volumes of cargo via air instead of ground ignores the hard tonnage vs numbers of airships needed.

Using airships to move cargo from the Port of Los Angeles inland to the rail lines' distribution yards versus using existing rail lines would be less efficient. No one moves as efficiently as rail traffic in $/ton moved and in safety.

The ideal use of airships is obvious when you need oversize items moved to remote locations or when you must hover for any reason or offload portions of the total load to different locations as in constructing water, rail, gas or power distribution systems over long & remote distances

Burrell Clawson
5th December, 2012 @ 11:42 pm PST

Dear Munir, Lawrence R. Bosch invented the Bosch Captive Column because the materials available in the 1960s were not light and strong enough to meet his specifications for the dirigible he designed to carry hydrogen fuel from huge wind farms to be built where winds are extreme; then electrolyze water and carry the hydrogen to points of large-scale use. I'd like to talk with you about applications for the framing you are evidently using; it could be lighter and stronger than a truss.

Mark Roest
6th December, 2012 @ 12:10 am PST

Utilizing an airship as a modern cargo tranporter is not a new idea, the European Cargolifter tried to get this from the ground as well (pardon the pun). Let's hope this venture is more sucessfull.

It is a great idea. We in Africa can use it in some of the African countries where there is a lot of mining activities, but where the road infrastructure is not well developed.

Riaanh
6th December, 2012 @ 03:40 am PST

A while ago I was reading the US government was trying to get rid of its helium supply for some reason by selling it all. Then maybe they can start to using hydrogen.

Fun fact about the Hindenberg; all people that died were the ones who jumped out of the zeppelin seeing it on fire. The ones who remained on it all survived. Hydrogen is lighter than air, so even if it combusts it won't drop with most other flammable coumpounds.

Fretting Freddy the Ferret pressing the Fret
6th December, 2012 @ 07:06 am PST

Thank you very much, Munir. It's my pleasure. By the way, congratulations on the completion of so many of the subsystems. I think we're all anxiously awaiting the Aeroscraft tour video!

J. James
6th December, 2012 @ 08:50 am PST

North Queensland, Australia would be ideal for this sort of transport system. Large mining operations inland with limited infrastructure, constant sunshine for Solar panel operation, extensive land for a tourism base, Townsville has port and airport and most of the year consistent light winds with a guaranteed easterly sea breeze every afternoon. Our main highway is in a shocking state and often clogged with container trucks.

David Brooke-Taylor
6th December, 2012 @ 03:29 pm PST

Submarine technology, ie compressing gasses to make them denser and therefore heavier, has been around a long time. Makes me wonder how come it has taken so long to be included in dirigible tech, which has always had obvious benefits in lift vs fuel use. Then again, spectacular disasters have a way of coloring people's perceptions, be they Hindenburg or Three Mile Island.

Fretting Freddy - tough to say whether you are serious or just trolling, but you should have a look at http://facesofthehindenburg.blogspot.com/ It details how each person died; most deaths were of those trapped in the wreckage after it crashed, not those who jumped. And saying hydrogen was not the cause of those deaths is like saying the airliners that hit the Twin Towers weren't the cause of death, it was the buildings falling on them. Hydrogen *itself*, no - but the Hindenburg never would have burned that fast or hot in the first place were it not for all that hydrogen.

Xeiran
6th December, 2012 @ 04:33 pm PST

How feasible would mini robotic versions of such variable buoyancy airships be for delivering goods to homes? I can imagine homes installing landing boxes for these that locked deliveries inside.

Mark James
6th December, 2012 @ 07:31 pm PST

Mark,

It would be a pleasure to discuss with you any possible applications of new and old technologies. Unfortunately this is a bad time since I'm really busy getting ready for hangar demonstrations and future test flights. You could get in touch with our Business Development team that is always eager to listen for new ideas and offers.

J.James,

Thanks a lot. A draft video tour of the vehicle (inside the hangar) was shot last week and it's being edited as we speak. We'll keep you all posted (FB & Tweeter) when we make it public.

Xerian,

The key of submarine technology as well as the key of our control of static heaviness is NOT the compressing capacity to create a denser gas (although this is a help) but the AIR you allow to go inside to compensate for the gas you compressed. Helium even under 10psi is still significantly lighter than AIR... but the same volume you compressed, once substituted by AIR represent a great ballast. Similarly, the key in submarines is the WATER that is allowed to flood the chambers and change the vessel heaviness rather than the air you compress back.

The main reason why this old technology hasn't been applied in the Lighter Than Air (LTA) arena earlier is simply because "compression" was always associated with big heavy compressors and big heavy tanks.... and AEROS has totally change this paradigm....making it feasible, practical and truly efficient. We have already preliminary designs of a much sophisticated technology for our 66Ton, 200Ton and 500Ton payload family of vehicles.

Please, don't hesitate asking any questions in our Facebook account. I'll be the one answering them. Also, if you are in southern California, stay tuned for visits and guided tours open to the public.

Munir Jojo-Verge
6th December, 2012 @ 08:22 pm PST

Xeiran, although a submarine-like buoyancy control system seems obvious in hindsight, in the past, weight was at a premium on board an airship, despite their absurdly vast size and payload. Compressors were not efficient enough, or light enough, not to mention the general aversion to letting the hydrogen anywhere near machinery or moving parts, for fear of static or a spark.

Despite this, airships in the past actually did have inventive ways to control their trim. Some had complex water-recovery systems to compensate for fuel burn. The Graf Zeppelin used neutrally buoyant blaugas for fuel. And the Hindenburg had a conceptual 5th engine which could run on hydrogen.

None of these things were as effective or nearly as fast as the Aeroscraft's buoyancy management system, but they were serviceable.

J. James
6th December, 2012 @ 08:37 pm PST

If you that believe that Hydrogen is the cause of the Hindenburg demise think of this. Hydrogen by itself is Not flammable. You need the proper mix of Oxygen for it to become flammable. Recall the triangle of Fire- Fuel, Oxygen, Heat. The Hindenburg was still providing lift while in flames meaning the bags were still intact momentarily. Just so happens the solar reflecting rubber skin was doped with Aluminum making it a form of solid rocket fuel. In my experience, rocket fuel (fuel+ oxidizer mix) burns fast and does not like sparks! Use the same skin on the Goodyear Blimp and you will get the same results just without the hydrogen conundrum. Oh and using Hydrogen provides a lot more lift.

Travis Tarr
7th December, 2012 @ 01:56 am PST

Actually, I am looking forward to the return of these vehicles for passenger transport. Being strapped in a chair for hours on end is the worst torture imaginable for me. These vehicles would provide for the ability to get up and walk around, have a comfortable meal, work in a roomy workspace, or just stroll the promenade and enjoy the view. No need to check baggage since there would be space in the passenger compartments for your luggage. I would trade the extra travel time for those benefits any day.

Oldpond
7th December, 2012 @ 06:58 am PST

It occurs to me that the you could vary the lift with a high output "air-conditioner" cooling or heating the helium like a particularly responsive hot air balloon.

Slowburn
7th December, 2012 @ 09:33 am PST

@Travis Tarr

Allow me to disabuse you of your erroneous beliefs. In order, 1: While it is true that pure hydrogen is nonflammable(hence the Zeppelin's obsession with purity), it has an incredibly broad ignition range- around 10 to 90%-once mixed with air from the surrounding atmosphere or spaces in between the sixteen gas cells. The Zeppelin was not surrounded by a vacuum; there was plenty of oxygen to be had even within the ship.

2: The fact that fit still had lift while on fire proves nothing. Whether 1 or 2 or 10 of the gas cells are in flames, that means nothing to the other cells that the fire hadn't spread to yet.

3: The presence of Aluminum in the doping mixture is just as irrelevant as the duralumin that the ship was constructed of, or the fact that a paper clip is aluminum. This DOES NOT MEAN it is "rocket fuel." Furthermore, large areas of the skin remained unburned(trust me, I've seen them with my own two eyes), which is unthinkable if that was the source of that 1,000 foot high fireball. Furthermore, there were obviously investigations into this, which everyone conveniently seems to forget, which used swatches of the fabric from the actual Hindenburg and found them not even to be flammable, merely combustible(capable of burning under a sustained flame). At the rate it burned, it would take weeks(or a slight breeze to put it out) until it burned the entire skyscraper-sized ship. Lastly, merely looking at the footage of the crash proves this wrong, the Hindenburg was clearly and unambiguously incinerated from within, and it glowed like a gigantic Japanese lantern moments before the flames melted the skin away from the skeleton.

4. Hydrogen provides only an 8% boost in lift, small enough only to afford the Hindenburg to construct a few more first- class staterooms when it was converted from Helium.

J. James
7th December, 2012 @ 04:50 pm PST



J.James - No reason to even consider that hydrogen had nothing to do with it the disaster. Even at only 8%, (around 40,000 extra lbs for Hindenburg-class ships) that is a lot in terms of the cargo/passenger industry.

Travis Tarr
8th December, 2012 @ 09:23 am PST

re; J. James

The Zeppelin people modified the doping mix to make it much more electrically conductive after the Hindenburg crash so they were not as sure as you that it had nothing to do with the fire.

I have seen the test where a very reasonable electrical discharge caused actual Hindenburg skin burst into flames and burn quite vigorously.

Which side of the skin fabric you set on fire matters the powdered aluminum was on the outside So that a fire burning against the inside is not going to have the same effect as fire burning on the outside plus the most flammable portion of the skin had iron oxide.

Fire does not scale well. Small fires burn differently than large fires so any sub scale demonstrations (or tests) you have seen is wrong.

When a hydrogen filled balloon or airship burned the accident investigation usually consisted of men digging at the ashes and other remains with their toes mutually agreeing that "Hydrogen sure is dangerous stuff" and not even making a token look for any other possible cause.

Hydrogen is dangerous stuff but the Zeppelin people knew this and designed in enough ventilation that there should not have been enough free hydrogen to start a fire.

The people who later changed the formula of the doping material knew what they were doing when they made the Hindenburg skin but not what they were doing when handling hydrogen.

Slowburn
8th December, 2012 @ 01:27 pm PST

I forgot to mention that the fire started on the side away from the cameras and by the time the camera side was burning the Hindenburg was fully on fire.

Slowburn
9th December, 2012 @ 09:50 am PST

The accident was fully investigated

The German investigation team came to this probable conclusion in May 1937:

"After dropping of the landing ropes, the surface of the airship’s outer cover became less well grounded than the framework of the airship due to the lower conductivity of the outer cover fabric. At rapid changes of the atmospheric field, which are the rule during night thunderstorms and have also to be assumed In this present case, electric potential differences occurred between spots of the ship’s exterior and the framework. In case these spots were sufficiently moist, which was especially probable in the region of cell 4 and 5 in consequence of the previous passage through a rain area, those differences could lead to equalization of tension by a spark, which possibly caused ignition of a hydrogen-air mixture present over the gas cells 4 or 5."

http://www.airships.net/hindenburg/disaster/german-investigation

The US Commerce Department report conclusion from August 1937:

"The cause of the accident was the ignition of a mixture of free hydrogen and air. Based upon the evidence, a leak at or in the vicinity of cell 4 and 5 caused a combustible mixture of hydrogen and air to form in the upper stern part of the ship in considerable quantity; the first appearance of an open flame was on the top of the ship and a relatively short distance forward of the upper vertical fin. The theory that a brush discharge ignited such mixture appears most probable."

http://www.airships.net/hindenburg/disaster/commerce-department-inquiry-2

The question is why members are trolling against airships when they were always safer and cheaper in every way than heavier than air aircraft, and why some members are being trolled to answer to an accident over 75 years ago with materials and gas which are no longer used. Today it is Plastic, Carbon fibre, Teflon and Helium. Scaremongering still.

Funny though there are no complaints about the use of Duraluminium in Aircraft or the use of the highly combustable fuel Kerosene which has a vapour that can have exactly the same effect of ignition in an electrostatic environment in air as the Hindenburg.

P.S. The investigation teams in Germany had the benefit of several working airship examples to take apart, including the manufacturers factories and stores, with exhaustive testing they did a lot better than "digging at the ashes and other remains with their toes", which is why they could take weeks to come to the same conclusion as the US Commerce Department.

L1ma
9th December, 2012 @ 11:29 am PST

re; L1ma

There is a world of difference between trying to ignite structural aluminum and powdered aluminum.

Right after the investigation that blamed the hydrogen the Germans went home and modified the formula for the doping mixture.

Slowburn
10th December, 2012 @ 06:09 am PST

Re Slowburn,

Flogging a dead horse. Please stop, the entire business ended in 1945 with the last of the flawed designed ridgid airships.

L1ma
10th December, 2012 @ 10:19 am PST

In episode 70 of the TV series :The Mythbusters", the team assembled several scale models of the Hindenburg with different skin treatments. The skin which burnt fastest was the cotton substrate, without any hydrogen filling! The 'dope' used to coat this was inflammable, and it did burn faster when containing hydrogen. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MythBusters_(2007_season)#Episode_70_.E2.80.93_.22Hindenburg_Mystery.2C_Crocodile_Zig_Zags.22 for a writeup, better still view the original episode.

As others have pointed out, the comparatively tiny loss of life on the Hindenburg, while regrettable, was insignificant compared to the previous public service record of hydrogen-filled airships -- less than 50 people lost over 38 mostly problem-free years. Compare that to today's aircraft, when exploding on crashing, or even during a bad landing, is commonplace. Hydrogen is the way to go.

David Noel
10th December, 2012 @ 10:23 pm PST

re; David Noel

I watched it the first time it aired and pointed out to all who would listen that fire does not scale well because big fires behave differently than small fires.

Slowburn
11th December, 2012 @ 09:01 am PST

@ J James; Slowburn.

Mentioned by David Noel was the death rate due to airships,in 2010 of 2.4 billion passengers, 736 died in 23 accidents, Semi rigid Airships have had a Zero death rate bar one heart attack since 1945 and no accidents.

One of the main reasons for the Anti Airship lobby was that the leading proponent of Airships Rear Admiral Moffet died in the USS Akron crash in 1932 one of the 72 crew and passengers who DROWNED the rigid airship was flown into a superstorm along with another Navy blimp J3 sent into the same storm to find the crash scene.

For comparison the Titanic (1912) lost 1503 lives, the Doa Paz (1987) took 4386 lives, death tolls in the Phillipines alone is estimated at 20,000 - 30,000 annually for small boat transportation. The current death rate for road traffic accidents in the US is 32,310 for 2010, Airships 0. It is safer to ban all road transportation, sea transportation even walking (Death rate: 4,749 US in 2003) and fly.

@ Hindenburg all posters: There is nothing more to argue over redundent and obsolete technology and design. I am pushing the concept back at you all, they dont make them like that any more and thank goodness. Lifejackets are provided, parts of the airframe do not tear off, the non rigid envelope can be rapidly deflated, ballast and guy ropes are unnecessary with hovercraft skirting designed to provide suction to an airfield during landing. They no longer burn, the current generation made for the last 70 years do not catch fire.

L1ma
11th December, 2012 @ 09:57 pm PST

re; L1ma

The questions is what lessons should be learned?

Do airships not burn today because they are not full of hydrogen or do modern airships not burn because they do not suffer static electricity imbalances great enough to ignite the materials that they are made out of?

Would a hydrogen filled blimp with modern skin and a non-sparking engine mounted well below the gasbag be adequately safe? I think so.

Slowburn
12th December, 2012 @ 12:14 pm PST

Acutally, this would be ideal for the delivery of long and heavy parts directly from the factory to the installation site. How about 250' mag lev rails, or 300' single-piece blades for wind turbines?

I can envision electric transmission poles and towers being delivered and installed in one piece. Imagine flying along the right-of-way, lowering these structures into place without regard to the terrain. A great way to rebuild our aging infrastructure.

The possibilities are endless. The rewards for those with vision will be great.

pole guy
13th December, 2012 @ 08:45 am PST

even though it would carry half the load of a plane it would in effect be cheaper in the long run as of now it goes by plane costing $ in fuel then the only place a plane can land is at an airport now that cargo has to be offloaded into trucks or rail costing more money.Now with these things u cut out the need to land at an airport and also cut out the truck transport by delivering straight to the destination without the middle man thus saving huge amount of money for the companies and making it cheaper on conumers the only downside is it would take away trucking jobs in effect putting people like me out of work....

Justin McElhaney
8th October, 2013 @ 05:35 am PDT
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