October 8, 2007 It’s as big as a superyacht, and not quite as fast as a supercar but it does have a range of over 3000 miles and can do it over land, sea or snow, lingering anywhere you like the view. A new category of aircraft that fits somewhere in between a blimp, airship or dirigible, the Aeroscraft ML866 project was recently presented at the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) show in Atlanta, Georgia. The key factor of the ML866 design is that it offers superyacht size and comfort in a platform that can operate independently from airports, meaning that a new class of luxury conveyance is about to become available which appears to trump them all.
Based on concepts developed for the (now apparently shelved) US Army Heavy Lift “Project Walrus”, the Aeroscraft ML866 has some remarkable capabilities not available in other aircraft - it is incredibly spacious offering a cabin area of 5,382 square ft (500 square metres), boasts low operating costs, has all-weather capabilities, vertical takeoff and landing and extended range along with its ability to hover for long periods, meaning it can be utilized for a range of different applications from a private air yacht to a business office (even offering conferencing facilities catering for 100 people) in the sky or for commuting, freight solutions and sightseeing.
The Aeroscraft ML866 is a buoyancy assisted air vehicle with a rigid structure and gas cells. It uses Aeros’ proprietary Full Authority Direct Organic Lift Control (FADOLC) - a dynamic buoyancy management system that provides the low speed control capability. While 70% of the aerodynamic lift comes from helium, the remaining 30% is derived from its innovative “wing” shape. As well as being able to hover the aircraft will be capable of speeds up to 138 mph (0-222 kmh) and will operate at altitudes of up to 12,000 ft (3,657 m). and the massive 210 ft (64 m) long by 118 ft (36 m) wide by 56 ft (17 m) high structure will deliver a roomy 5000+ square feet of cabin space.
Aeros displayed a 1/48th scale model at this year’s NBAA show and hopes to begin airframe static testing of the rigid composite structure within months, with flight testing at the San Bernadino International Airport to follow as early as 2010. An additional series of commercially focussed Aeroscraft is also on the drawing board and will be scaled to payloads of up to 60 tons.
No exact pricing details are available as yet but reports suggest the tag will be under $40 million.