Mammoth-sized blimps may work well as advertising tools, but soon they could be doing a lot more work than that. Aerospace and defense corporation Boeing and Canadian company SkyHook International are working together to create a 302-foot-long airship with rotors that can haul heavy loads—double the capacity of the biggest helicopter—across remote regions at a lower fuel and environmental cost.
Named the Jess Heavy Lifter 40 (JHL-40) after its inventor, SkyHook's Peter Jess, the buoyant airship has a helium-filled envelope that will be enough to support its own weight, including fuel. This leaves its four rotors to provide enough power to carry a 40-ton external load for 200 miles without refueling—a bonus in harsh, isolated areas like the Canadian Arctic or Alaska.
A hybrid blimp rotorcraft or "helicraft" is not a new concept at all, and, in fact, there have been many dead-end endeavors, like the Piasecki Heli-Stat in the 1980s. The timing might be just right, though, for the JHL-40, considering rising fuel costs and numerous eco-friendly initiatives. Boeing, in charge of development and building, and SkyHook, in charge of maintenance, operations and servicing, anticipate having the airship commercially ready by 2012.
[Via Aviation Week]
"SkyHook International are working together to create a 302-foot-long airship with rotors that can haul heavy loads—double the capacity of the biggest helicopter—across remote regions at a lower fuel and environmental cost."
great, environmentally friendly, great words while having it haul trees out of a forest, just what the environment needs
and I was just starting to like that show. I've seen a similar proposal before, and just recently there was discussion on a passenger style airship that would operate between Europe and Africa. I've always been fascinated by airships despite the numerous crashes.
I wonder how much fuel they use for a 200 mile trip? Can you imagine seeing these replace big tractor trailers. A highway without tractor trailers, now that would be nice.
in germany, failed project called "Cargolifter", see http://www.ftd.de/unternehmen/industrie/:Hintergrund%20Warum%20Cargolifter/383802.html
That is Funny, One would think that their Promotional Pics would have it hauling something like a Red Cross container, rather than what looks like it's being used for logging.....
I'd bet some (low level) employee at the advertising firm gets fired (not the mgr that approved it)
On a positive note, Sure hope these things come to fruition.
I think this is about the 20th time I've heard they are going to make a comeback since the 60's
Straight to the point...
Selective logging is a hell of a lot better then forest felling.
The advert has to appeal to the market, ie. companies with money, like airlines. or more likely crane and cargo companies,
With up coming technology, micro carbon tubing etc, 300ft long, imagine the surface area, that would be like a solar painted panel the size of a foot ball field, there shouldn't be any need for fuel, it could fly forever well during the day and maybe they will have weight to spear for batteries to fly at night, who knows.
The applications for this could be endless, one that comes to mind could be building skyscrapers, super structures (anchored in a similar fashion as a drilling ship or barge) and even rented to carry a container of supplies for the red cross,
I be leave its a good idea, how ever big surface vehicle will need a lot of respect to control
nothing wrong with reinventing the wheel, i hope they succeed.
We have a rather nasty problem in Canada with a bug called the pine beetle. It kills pine trees not directly but by infecting them with a fungus. This has very little effect on the lumber in the trees. Vast areas of dead trees are found in BC and Alberta. This machine would make harvesting those trees possible without having to carve roads through the wilderness. It's heavy lifting and dead-on-target positioning capabilities also make it a great tool for fire fighting. This is doubly important, because those dead trees are extremely flammable.
Dude I would love to see blimps come back and actually be used for something other than billboards at sporting events! Bravo!
Nearly all of the world's helium supply is found within a 250-mile radius of Amarillo, Texas (the Helium Capital of the World). A byproduct of billions of years of decay, helium is distilled from natural gas that has accumulated in the presence of radioactive uranium and thorium deposits. If it's not extracted during the natural gas refining process, helium simply soars off when the gas is burned, unrecoverable.
Industrial buyers use the gas primarily for arc welding (helium creates an inert atmosphere around the flame) and leak detection (hydrogen has a smaller atom, but it usually forms a diatomic molecule, H2). NASA uses it to pressurize space shuttle fuel tanks: The Kennedy Space Center alone uses more than 75 million cubic feet annually. Liquid helium, which has the lowest melting point of any element (-452 degrees Fahrenheit), cools infrared detectors, nuclear reactors, wind tunnels, and the superconductive magnets in MRI equipment. At our current rate of consumption, will likely be empty in 10 to 25 years, and the Earth will be virtually helium-free by the end of the 21st century.
I think this is a good idea! If it would lower fuel costs then why not? Plus it would get more altitude then the standard helicopter.
I assume the people who are critical of the removal of logs own no wood or paper products...
One question comes to mind. Instead of having the helium offset just the weight of the vehicle why not have enough helium to carry the vehicle and the cargo? I know, that makes the airship hard to handle. But, put a water tank inside the envelope that can hold a weight of water equivalent to your cargo limit. Fly the airship to the site, hook up the cargo, dump the water, fly away. The thrust requirements for the fans should be dramatically less.
You've raised important points about the scaricity of helium. However, that alone doesn't eliminate the future potential of lighter-than-air craft.
There is at least one obvious alternative: hydrogen. Hydrogen got a bum rap when the Hindenberg burned up. It shouldn't have -- the problem was more likely the incendary coating and fabric. (Hydrogen flame being invisible to the eye.) While this theory is contested; it is certainly true that we have much better materials available today. The risks of using hydrogen should be acceptable for a heavy freighter, operating in remote locations.
Even water vapour could be used as a lifting gas & it is certainly not combustable. It would require a different design -- more likely a derigible than a blimp, as it's easier to vaporize water at lower pressures. (Derigibles have a rigid frame, blimps rely on internal pressure to hold their shape.) A heat source would probably also be required. Challenges? Yes -- but, not insurmountable challenges.