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Friday, January 11, 2013

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Pentagon develops massive cargo airship

The Department of Defense is developing a 36,000-pound, dirigible-like airship designed for massive military and humanitarian cargo missions in developing countries. It can land and take off vertically from any surface, including water and snow.

The Aeroscraft ML868 will haul 66 tons of cargo without using runways or external ballasting systems. The government contracted with Worldwide Aeros Corp, based in Montebello, to build the $50 million airship.

"It'll fill the gap between what planes and helicopters do. It can land in areas without roads or infrastructure and carry loads that a helicopter never could, " said Mansoor Kouchak, vice president of engineering at Worldwide Aeros.

The ship has a helium-ballasting management system. Kouchak said they control how heavy or light the vehicle is by compressing and releasing stored helium. The aircraft contains 1.3 million cubic meters of the gas, and is driven by propellers and six turbofan jet engines.

The 230-foot long prototype, the Pelican, can lift up to 10-ton loads across long distance using much less fuel than an airplane. The ship, which has been likened to a flying saucer, has been a project of the Pentagon's Rapid Reaction Technology Office.

"I'm sure people are going to be like, 'Oh, there's a UFO flying around,'" Worldwide Aeros engineer Tim Kenny said. "This is the next step of aviation. We haven't had anything like this for how many years now of advancement."

The Pentagon said besides hauling cargo, the airship could have uses relating to surveillance and reconnaissance missions.

The final version of the airship will be 450-feet long and will have a capacity of 66 tons.

For more of the Wired UK story:

For more of the DVICE story:

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