November 6, 2006 The DARPA Walrus program, one of the most ambitious projects ever scoped, may have been officially wound up due to budgetary constraints, but in achieving the program objectives, chief contractor Aeros Aeronautical Systems believes that the technological concepts successfully demonstrated by the program provides a basis of confidence on which to launch a new commercial effort to build a full scale demonstration vehicle. Aeros President Igor Pasternak believes that "Aeroscraft will do to the cargo industry what Internet did for information exchange. With continuous development of this technology we move a step closer to the next breakthrough in aerospace innovation." The Walrus is a massive blimp that can transport 500 military units in their entirety but could equally offer myriad peacetime solutions, opening land-locked countries to trade, enabling heavy construction materials to be delivered into urban centres with minimum disruption and facilitating a more robust and agile air transportation network. Indeed, business logistics could be completely rethought because many physical transportation limits would no longer apply once a fleet of commercial Walruses (Aeroscraft) became available. The Aeroscraft does not require an airstrip and can land on water or on open ground.
Aeros finalised its activities in September and successfully achieving the starting goals of the project which were to develop and evaluate a very large airlift vehicle concept designed to control lift in all stages of air or ground operations including the ability to off-load payload without taking on-board ballast other than surrounding air. In distinct contrast to earlier generation airships, the Walrus aircraft is a heavier-than-air vehicle that generates lift through a combination of aerodynamics, thrust vectoring and gas buoyancy generation and management. Aeros proof-of-concept technology demonstrations included their unique integrated buoyancy management system that provides a new and revolutionary approach to vehicle lift generation and control. Aeros
"What we accomplished and demonstrated is an exceptional buoyancy management solution; something that has not been done before in the history of aviation," said Igor Pasternak, President of Aeros Aeronautical Systems Corp. He added, "Along with the innovative structure design and low speed maneuverability system, we have positioned ourselves to begin production of a full scale technology demonstrator vehicle that will have the capability of vertical takeoff and landing, absolutely autonomous, and incorporate the innovative lift and buoyancy concepts that do not rely on off-board ballast."
Though Aeros currently manufactures conventional airships, the company’s concept of the partially buoyant Aeroscraft vehicle is a rigid hull structure. "After years of thorough research and analysis we discovered that the real utility lies within the rigid structure. We know the limitations of airships, and are absolutely certain that conventional airships are not well suited for cargo applications," said Aeros VP Fred Edworthy.
Throughout the Walrus program Aeros led the development team that included Northrop Grumman Corporation, United Technologies' Pratt & Whitney and Hamilton Sundstrand companies, and ATK GASL.
The original and full Walrus story can be found here.