Once there was a time when the man looked towards the sky, he was expected to see giant balloons instead of moving planes into the skies of the area. The Hindenburg disaster soon ended those dreams. But almost a century later, a company has finally discovered how to build a suitable airship for the 21st century. Just do not call it the balloon.
This fully rigid airship, dubbed the Aeroscraft, differs fundamentally from, say, the Goodyear blimp. The balloons, by definition, have no internal structure and maintain their shape only through the gas pressure contained therein. When gas escapes, they blow out like giant balloons they are. Balloons, balloons as before them, maintain their shape regardless of the gas pressure through the skeleton – The Hindenburg uses internal balsa highly inflammable wood, but the Aeroscraft is made of aluminum and carbon fiber and maintains buoyancy with a series of full gases. Unlike hybrid airships the Aeroscraft does not require the power of pushing forward to generate lift through a set of wings. It’s all helium power.
This project has received over $35 million in R&D funds. The government has even lent the company a couple of NASA boffins to help develop the aerodynamics & control systems. With the successful launch of the mid-sized model, pelicans, at the end of last week, investment appears to have been paid off. The future of travel seems lighter than the air seems imminent to us.
At 266 feet long and 97 feet wide, the Pelican model is nearly half the size of what Aeroskraft will have on a large scale. If finished, the Aeroscraft will measure more than 400 feet long and will be able to lift 66 tonnes or more.
Unlike balloons that keep buoyancy constant and rely on ballast and fans to adjust their height, the Aeroskraft will employ a unique bladder system that can change the constant weight of the boat (relative to the air) to will. The system works a lot like how to use compressed air submarines to float.