Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Top Story

Meet the next generation of cargo airships

The infamous Hindenburg disaster in 1937 cast airships in a negative light for decades, but a new generation of “hybrids” promise technological improvements over the more traditional models for moving freight with a smaller carbon footprint and little to no infrastructure required.

“We may always carry freight in the bellies of passenger jets. But in a fully mature hybrid market, airships should replace the rest of the fixed-wing cargo fleet,” said Barry Prentice, transport economist at the University of Manitoba, in a story in the Daily Climate.

Company’s like Lockheed Martin Aeronautics are promoting these new “hybrid air ships” that are cross between lighter-than-air technology and fixed-wing aircraft that “"give you access and much larger payloads at much lower costs," according to Peter DeRobertis, who leads the airship project for Lockheed.

"It's also a green aircraft; you're not polluting," he said.

Airship entrepreneurs are hoping to not repeat the mistakes of Germany’s Cargolifter AG that went through $500 million worth of funding with the air going out of that project in 2002.

Several prototypes that are reportedly a big upgrade from the Cargolifter concept are under development including Lockheed’s 50-ton “SkyTug,” which is scheduled to hit the market in late 2013 sporting a range of 1,000 nautical miles and payload capacity of 20 tons.

Lockheed said it has a more robust “Skyfreighter” scheduled to be available by 2014.

The new airships could potentially be able to carry a wide range of freight, including heavy equipment, from the factory to the job site, including over areas where roads, rail and airports are scarce.

The Cargolifter required an infrastructure for unloading freight, but the new hybrids do not need a mooring system or ground crew.

"The cost of building all-weather gravel roads in northern Manitoba is $1 million per kilometer," said Prentice. "If transport airships were available, then it would be hard to justify any roads."

For the full Daily Climate story: wwwp.dailyclimate.org



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