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The Second Age of Airships

CmdrTaco posted more than 4 years ago | from the no-smoking-please dept.

Transportation 363

The Telegraph has a story about a new generation of airships. It says "It's a new vehicle. It's a hybrid because we're combining helium lift, aerodynamic lift, a hovercraft landing system, and vectored thrust... If you can get beyond the word airship — because that has a lot of history — people think about them differently."

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Great, instead of peak oil ... (5, Informative)

capnchicken (664317) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150324)

Re:Great, instead of peak oil ... (5, Informative)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150348)

Technically we hit peak helium a long, long time ago. Most of what's used today is out of storage collected decades ago.

Re:Great, instead of peak oil ... (5, Funny)

somersault (912633) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150448)

I thought helium was refined essence of Chipmunk - surely a renewable source?

Re:Great, instead of peak oil ... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33151014)

No, helium is actually acquired from castrated human testicles. The current stockpiles come all the way back from 1700s.

Re:Great, instead of peak oil ... (3, Interesting)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150434)

My impression was not that we were running out of helium, but that we were just not bothering to collect as much as we used to, despite the continued demand for it. It is not like alpha emitters are a particularly rare thing...

Re:Great, instead of peak oil ... (4, Informative)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150670)

Having usable amounts of helium trapped in one place so you can collect it efficiently is quite rare though. There's a reason that > 90% of helium was taken out of the great plains, it's one of the few places where it occurs in large enough quantities to be feasible. There are, of course, other places (Algeria apparently is the new number 2 producer according to Wiki), and as the price increases it will become more economical to capture and refine from natural gas wells that ignore it today. That's one of the reasons there was a big push to stop government control of the price of Helium, it's important that we start collecting more of what's available before we vent a potentially precious resource into the atmosphere because its too expensive to capture.

Re:Great, instead of peak oil ... (4, Informative)

dave420 (699308) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150738)

It's not just leaked into the atmosphere - once in the atmosphere most of it is leaked into space.

Re:Great, instead of peak oil ... (5, Informative)

Ex-MislTech (557759) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150864)

"What helium is present today has been mostly created by the natural radioactive decay of heavy radioactive elements (thorium and uranium), as the alpha particles that are emitted by such decays consist of helium-4 nuclei. This radiogenic helium is trapped with natural gas in concentrations up to seven percent by volume, from which it is extracted commercially by a low-temperature separation process called fractional distillation."

Looks like another good reason to build LFTR reactors that can also take
the current radioactive waste and dispose it for good.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WWUeBSoEnRk [youtube.com]

Good transition til we can upscale other clean energy sources.

Re:Great, instead of peak oil ... (4, Informative)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150698)

It is not like alpha emitters are a particularly rare thing...

      No. The problem is that the alpha emitters have half-lives in the billions of years. While there's plenty of helium being produced inside our planet, the problem is one of venting. No one is willing to stand over active volcanoes to collect it for some reason. The helium that comes up through permeable rocks in the crust can't be collected because it's so diffuse. So we're stuck with those helium pockets that can be collected - those that happen to be trapped (along with natural gas) under rocks that aren't permeable. Those pockets took - billions of years to create, and dozens of years to empty.

Re:Great, instead of peak oil ... (1)

Magada (741361) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150882)

No peak, just lack of demand. Iran is venting tons of the stuff into the atmosphere, what with all the natural gas they're burning at the wellheads.

Hydrogen or hot-air (1, Informative)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150628)

Nope, still peak oil. The envelope of an airship can still be filled with hydrogen (made from fossil fuel) or with air (heated with fossil fuel). Some analysts claim that the problem with LZ 129 Hindenburg wasn't that it was filled with H2 as much as that it was painted with solid rocket fuel.

Re:Hydrogen or hot-air (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33150822)

Hydrogen can be extracted using electrolysis or bacteria. That opens up nuclear, hydro, solar, and bio as sources of materials.

Re:Hydrogen or hot-air (3, Insightful)

MaWeiTao (908546) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150964)

The claims of thermite paint being the cause of the explosion has been debunked. Mythbusters featured one of the better known debunking.

Re:Hydrogen or hot-air (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33151060)

Mythbusters also "debunked" that a soda can in a hot car could explode. My experience in that vein directly contradicts their debunking. Posting AC because it's offtopic, not because I won't stand behind my story.

Re:Hydrogen or hot-air (2, Informative)

hedwards (940851) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150996)

Indeed, the nail in the coffin of the hydrogen disaster myth was the flame being the wrong color. What's better is that H is lighter and more common than He is. I'm sure with modern technology we can probably even figure out a way of using it more efficiently than in the past as well.

Re:Great, instead of peak oil ... (3, Insightful)

ThatsLoseNotLoose (719462) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150778)

From TFA:

"Currently, the lighter-than-air market uses only two per cent of all the helium bought in the world. Most of that is used to blow up party balloons. "

Based on that I would expect the demand for party balloons would drop very quickly as the price of helium rises. That would allow plenty of helium to shift to airships.

Re:Great, instead of peak oil ... (1)

kraemer (637938) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150878)

The DoD has been using LTA platforms for years right under our noses!!! http://www.thestealthblimp.com/ [thestealthblimp.com]

Use hydrogen. (0)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150336)

Hydrogen is safe as long as you don't coat the outside of your airship with rocket fuel.

Re:Use hydrogen. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33150370)

Oh, the humanity!

Re:Use hydrogen. (-1, Troll)

erroneus (253617) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150510)

This reminds me of a study covering the obvious which concluded that people will cling to their first belief regardless of the facts that are presented later. What you say about the Hindenburg is quite correct... and yet most people still blame hydrogen. The same is true about Holocaust stories -- many have been proven false and they are still repeated today. And we don't even need to talk about the office 9-11 stories.

Hydrogen is the correct answer, but people don't want to hear it because of the images of the Hindenburg crash. What people fail to understand is sad. Gasoline burns hotter than hydrogen, but thanks to the Hindenburg crash video, we don't have hydrogen cars either.

Re:Use hydrogen. (4, Insightful)

AdmiralXyz (1378985) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150660)

What on Earth are you two talking about? The incendiary paint theory is deader than dead, it's on the same plane as Moon landing hoaxes. Christ, even the Mythbusters tanked that one, although if you like your science rigorous, there's plenty of documented proof too.

Hydrogen is the correct answer, but people don't want to hear it because of the images of the Hindenburg crash.

This is ridiculous. The Hindenburg crash isn't 9/11: it was nigh 80 years ago and I'm not even distantly related to anyone who died on it. I have no emotional connection to the disaster whatsodamnedever. I reject hydrogen in airships because it's dangerous as hell. There are just too many potential sources of ignition (sparks from machinery, static discharge) for it ever to be safe enough for flight, if we hold it to the same standards of safety that commercial jets are.

Gasoline burns hotter than hydrogen, but thanks to the Hindenburg crash video, we don't have hydrogen cars either.

Gasoline burns, hydrogen explodes. There's a difference. And the issues with hydrogen cars are a multi-paragraph post that I don't feel like writing right now, but (lousy energy density, present impossibility of storage, no infrastructure) are the main reasons, not lingering Hindenburg memories. Who on earth modded GP Insightful?

Re:Use hydrogen. (1)

DrgnDancer (137700) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150862)

Not to mention the detail where the hydrogen: whether burning, exploding, or miraculously transforming into wine, is holding the damned airship up. Even if it were possible to safely redirect the force of the heat and explosive energy of the hydrogen going up, the airship would crash from lack of lift. The temperature it burns at or the force of its explosiveness is almost immaterial to whether it's a good idea to try to keep a machine in the air using highly flammable gas.

Re:Use hydrogen. (5, Funny)

MadKeithV (102058) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150934)

Dammit, it said "IN-flammable" - how was I to know?

Re:Use hydrogen. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33150986)

I reject hydrogen in airships because it's dangerous as hell.

Gasoline burns, hydrogen explodes.

lousy energy density

Reconcile this.

If it's dangerous and it explodes, then how does it have lousy energy density compared to gasoline, when your argument apparently is that gasoline doesn't do these things?

Also,

The incendiary paint theory is deader than dead

Explain this. The outside of the Hindenburg was coated with what basically amounts to thermite. The frame of the airship was grounded because of the fear that the hydrogen might burn. The panels (painted in thermite, tethered to the frame with non-conductive rope) were not, because it wasn't known that they would burn.

The Hindenburg's hydrogen escaped above the flames much quicker than it could ignite. Some of it burned, but most of it simply escaped. This is due to H2's lightness. This prevents the "OMG hydrogen burnsssss ussss" theory from being of any worth.

Re:Use hydrogen. (1)

wagnerrp (1305589) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150972)

Gasoline burns hotter than hydrogen, but thanks to the Hindenburg crash video, we don't have hydrogen cars either.

Actually, no. Storing hydrogen at the 10ksi needed to make it volumetrically competitive with modern battery technology makes it very dangerous.

Forever. (4, Funny)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150340)

I will forever associate the word "airship" with Final Fantasy VI. Damn you, early-mid 1980's birth!

Re:Forever. (0)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150382)

I was born in 1984, and I don't associate the term airship with any Final Fantasy (in fact, not being a gamer at all, I'm somewhat confused as to how there can be more than one Final Fantasy, but that's not the point). It does conjure up far more cool Led Zeppelin imagery for me, though. But that leads me to Zeppelins in general, and the Hindenburg and all that baggage... possibly due to the album cover of Led Zeppelin I.

Re:Forever. (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150464)

fact, not being a gamer at all, I'm somewhat confused as to how there can be more than one Final Fantasy, but that's not the point

From this Wikipedia article [wikipedia.org] :

"As Sakaguchi planned to retire after completing the project, he named it Final Fantasy."

Re:Forever. (4, Interesting)

zero_out (1705074) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150566)

At the risk of being modded offtopic, I'll explain this Final Fantasy. In short, the development studio Squaresoft was going under, and they finished one last game, figuring that it would be their final foray into living their dream (or "fantasy") of game development. Well, it was a smash hit, and 23 years later, the franchise is still going strong. I'm sure that Wikipedia can tell you a lot more, but that's the story in a nutshell.

Re:Forever. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33150626)

It does conjure up far more cool Led Zeppelin imagery for me, though.

The mention of Led Zeppelin conjures up imagery of something far too heavy to take flight. Let's not forget about the toxic effects of handling it either; by all means keep it away from the children!

Re:Forever. (1)

Nevynxxx (932175) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150694)

No, you have it the wrong way around if you want to keep led Zeppelin away from the children!

Re:Forever. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33150506)

Funny, I'll always associate it with Monty Python's Flying Circus. Except I can't remember if it was emphatically "not a bloody zeppelin, it's an AIRSHIP!" or vice versa...

Re:Forever. (2)

Talderas (1212466) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150784)

It does feel like we're getting closer to the FF6/FF9 style of airship....

Personally I would prefer a more FF7/FF8 or FF12 style of airship....

Re:Forever. (2, Insightful)

Vorpix (60341) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150868)

why not FFIV? you start the game on the Red Wings as Cecil!

Re:Forever. (1)

GreyWolf3000 (468618) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150978)

I won't ride in an airship that wasn't designed by Cid.

Helium (1, Troll)

Pete Venkman (1659965) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150350)

Is this really how we should be using the Helium we have left on Earth?

Re:Helium (4, Insightful)

huckamania (533052) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150406)

We should save it for heart shaped balloons and making funny voices at parties?

No, we should use it to fill party balloons (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33150430)

Much better

Re:Helium (2, Interesting)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150466)

Well, we could always collect helium from tobacco fields -- the radioactive polonium in commonly used tobacco fertilizers is an alpha emitter, and plenty of it accumulated in the soil after decades of use.

Re:Helium (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33150472)

If you recycle your helium properly, then you're just "borrowing" it anyway. As far as I know no airship owner wants to let his helium escape into the atmosphere. Not at $200k or more for a "full load". If the airship project doesn't work out, it's an asset with value and it can be recovered and sold. There are plenty of medical facilities in need.

It's the kids with the helium balloons that are the REAL wasters of helium.

Re:Helium (1)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150844)

Is this really how we should be using the Helium we have left on Earth?

I think I missed the memo explaining how helium was now a scarce resource.

a lot of "history" (1)

v1 (525388) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150362)

If you can get beyond the word airship — because that has a lot of history

Ya, "history", all the bad kind [wikipedia.org]

Re:a lot of "history" (2, Funny)

somersault (912633) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150488)

Your sig is very appropriate today!

And not just a German problem. (1)

Steauengeglase (512315) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150786)

Don't forget the Shenandoah, R38, Roma, Akron and Macon. The Los Angeles was the only rigid US airship that didn't go crashing into the earth or sea and that is only because we the good sense to ground it before it had to chance to take out another crew. I can think of no other mode of transportation with such a failure rate and in the end it has only done Goodyear and Goodrich any good.

I hate to rain on this guy's parade, it is an awful neat one, but what advantage does it serve? In war it is the definition of slow moving target. For surveillance we already have satellites and they don't require a crew of airmen, massive hangers that rival the wonders of the ancient world and they run well under an airship's budget. Travel? For the speed and price why not take a cruise; the last time I check a lighter than air craft doesn't have room for a waterslide, chorus line or multiple all-you-can-eat buffets.

Don't get me wrong, it is terribly fascinating idea. If you said, 'Hey, you wanna take a ride on a airship, here are the tickets', I'd jump at it, but just because it is an interesting idea doesn't mean it was a good one.

Arrogant prick (-1, Flamebait)

moogied (1175879) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150366)

Arrogant prick. Seriously, you think the problem with your world changing brilliant idea is the name? No, the problem is that it sucks. To quote Archer "You combine all the comforts of a cruise ship with a slightly faster method of travel.", its a dumb idea. Thats the problem.

Re:Arrogant prick (3, Informative)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150450)

Airships make more sense for transporting cargo than people. They let you bypass the bottleneck of a port and let you take the cargo directly to its destination.

Re:Arrogant prick (1)

Captain Spam (66120) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150528)

Airships make more sense for transporting cargo than people. They let you bypass the bottleneck of a port and let you take the cargo directly to its destination.

Until we get lots of airships all contending for airspace directly at the destination...

Airports for airships (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150722)

Until we get lots of airships all contending for airspace directly at the destination

Then how about a compromise: You can keep building dedicated facilities where these airships land, but unlike with ships, you don't have to locate them all on the coast. I've got a name for them: "airports". Because airships can use shorter runways, an airport on a given amount of land can probably service much more traffic than an airport built for conventional jet airliners.

Re:Arrogant prick (2, Insightful)

Korin43 (881732) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150640)

But is it actually cheaper than just using boats, trains and trucks? While using three different kinds of transportation may not sound as nice to you, those are the cheapest methods of transporting large amounts of stuff.

Re:Arrogant prick (1)

Radtoo (1646729) | more than 4 years ago | (#33151032)

Cheaper than trucks? Yes. Trains / Boats, not so sure. If you want raw cargo per driver (or the likelihood that you can fly it entirely "by wire" or autonomously), fuel per km, or even probable average speeds, trucks will loose in many cases.

Also, if you think of less developed areas, these should be highly attractive. The hydrogen or whatever you want to employ for lift -other than helium, of course- can be cheap and mostly or entirely home-produced. There's maybe a need for high-quality materials initially, but wear and need for service can be very low... the propellers can even realistically be solar-powered if you don't need much more than that it gets to its destination eventually.

Re:Arrogant prick (4, Insightful)

wjousts (1529427) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150524)

So, it's like a cruise ship, but faster. And that's a bad thing? Obviously it doesn't compare favorably to a jet airliner if your only objective is to get from A to B, but if your objective is to enjoy the ride (kinda like on a cruise) then it seems pretty awesome.

Re:Arrogant prick (3, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150652)

To quote Archer "You combine all the comforts of a cruise ship with a slightly faster method of travel.", its a dumb idea.

What, exactly, makes it a dumb idea?

I've been on 5hr flights -- they're no fun. I can only imagine some of the really long flights must be friggin' brutal. Give it hotel amenities, a bar, a dance floor -- whatever -- and send people on a more leisurely trip without jamming them in like cattle and shoving them through airports. I can see it being a popular mode of travel.

Heck, just the romantic notion of it is kind of cool. I'd *love* to go on an airship voyage. It would be just plain old cool.

For leisure travel, it would be absolutely awesome way to see the world. I can see people paying to travel on one, if nothing else, for the novelty of it.

Re:Arrogant prick (1)

siride (974284) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150750)

+1 for referencing Archer. One of my favorite episodes so far.

Re:Arrogant prick (1)

b0bby (201198) | more than 4 years ago | (#33151020)

Maybe it's dumb for transporting people, but it may prove to be perfect for holding cameras over Afghanistan for 21 days at a time. Time will tell, but it's an interesting idea and something different. Let's see how it plays out. Lots of people take cruises, it's not too far fetched to see people paying to float around, say, the Grand Canyon area for a few days.

Hydrogen (0)

jolyonr (560227) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150398)

Half as dense as helium (so twice the lifting power), orders of magnitude cheaper, and far, far safer than a jet plane carrying aviation fuel.

It's not difficult to design safe(*) hydrogen airships nowdays. There's no excuse, other than irrational fear, for restricting airships to using expensive helium.

Jolyon

* - safe, as in the risks are at a similar, or lower, level than comparable forms of transport in everyday use.

Re:Hydrogen (5, Insightful)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150568)

Half as dense as helium (so twice the lifting power),

Uh, no? It's being lifted by air pressure caused by air density of about 1.2 g/L; helium has a density of 0.1786g/L, so a vacuum would at most supply 14% more lift. Hydrogen at .08988g/L supplies 7.5% more lift-- hardly twice the lifting power.

Re:Hydrogen (4, Funny)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150984)

vacuum would at most supply 14% more lift

OK, so let's fill our airships with vacuum. More lift and absolutely no danger of it going up in flames! Well, there's the problem of how to get the pressure with vacuum. But that's easy to solve: Just put enough dark energy in. If it can inflate the complete universe, it surely can also inflate a little balloon.

Half as dense != twice lift (5, Informative)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150590)

I'm afraid not. A guy called Archimedes (based in Syracuse, but not in NY) rather beat you to it. The lift is the difference between the current density of air and the current density of the fill gas. The MW of air averages around 29, so the lift for helium is 29-4 = 25 units, and for hydrogen is 29-2 is 27 units. If helium wasn't so expensive, the small loss of lift would be justified on safety alone.

The other problems with hydrogen are (a) that it leaks out of just about everything even faster than helium does and (b) your safety statement is utterly unproven - because nobody has recently built full size airships and compared the safety record to current winged aircraft, which are quite extraordinarily safe. Historically, airships in the 1930s might have been safer than airplanes - but since then airplanes have had over 70 years of technical advancement which have paid off massively.

Re:Hydrogen (1)

yk4ever (1110821) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150714)

> Half as dense as helium (so twice the lifting power)

Erm, which one did you flunk - math, chemistry or both?

Air has molecular weight of around 29. Helium (He) has 4, hydrogen (H2) has 2. Thus helium produces lift proportional to 29-4=25, and hydrogen - proportional to 29-2=27.

Not twice as much, but merely 8% higher.

Um... (1)

boneclinkz (1284458) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150444)

"If you can get beyond the word airship..."

Why would you want to? Airship is an awesome word.

Wouldn't you like to own a private airship? Call up your buds "hey man, wanna come over and watch the Superbowl? Yeah, we'll be hanging out on the airship. I'm planning on floating in circles over the lake at a few hundred feet. I get a 60 inch flat screen, two kegs, and a party sub. Bring your sister."

Re:Um... (0, Offtopic)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150580)

The last time I said "bring your sister" to my ex she actually considered dating again. And bringing her sister.

Re:Um... (1)

wagnerrp (1305589) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150776)

I'm planning on floating in circles over the lake at a few hundred feet.

That would make for some awesome fishing.

Holy steampunk Batman!! (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150452)

Cool!! Airships! Does this mean we all get brass goggles and leather aprons and other Steampunk essentials?

We need way more retro-future stuff like this! That's freakin' awesome.

Next, zombies in London. :-P

Re:Holy steampunk Batman!! (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33150604)

Next, zombies in London.

Those aren't zombies, they are members of the House of Lords.

Re:Holy steampunk Batman!! (4, Funny)

The Mighty Buzzard (878441) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150716)

You can tell the difference by how zombies occasionally will visibly be in possession of a brain while using their mouth.

Obligatory Annual Article (1)

dorpus (636554) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150470)

Every science magazine since the 1950s has felt obliged to talk about the "blimp renaissance" once a year, along with a "promising prototype".

I'm still waiting for the news of a prankster somewhere that flies a large RC blimp with a picture of Osama on it.

Re:Obligatory Annual Article (2, Insightful)

Danimoth (852665) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150634)

Sure, but these guys got a $500,000,000 contract from the US government to actually make some of these things.

Grab Your Goggles and Polish Up Your Brass (1)

RobotRunAmok (595286) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150480)

It's going to be a Glorious Ride!

Or maybe not [buzzfeed.com]

Hybrid Air Vehicle (1)

Hinhule (811436) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150494)

He picks a name that abbreviates to HAV. Hmmm Haich - Aiii - Veee... HIV!

Seriously...

D'oh! (2, Funny)

Thud457 (234763) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150540)

Monorail!

Not the first try to revive airships (5, Informative)

PseudonymousBraveguy (1857734) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150558)

They are not the first trying to revive the airship. Several years ago, CargoLifter [wikipedia.org] was developing a "second generation airship". Despide heavy subsidaries they've gone insolvent, because the engeneering required to create an actually useful airship is not exactly trivial, and the list of potential customers is astonishingly small. Well, at least they left a damn big hangar that now contains a nice amusement park.

Re:Not the first try to revive airships (1)

Sovetskysoyuz (1832938) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150644)

My first thought was "didn't I see this in Popular Science ten years ago?"

Re:Not the first try to revive airships (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33150768)

WTF are "subsidaries"? You mean "subsidies"? Probably one of those twits who says "orientate"...

Re:Not the first try to revive airships (1)

smellsofbikes (890263) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150904)

If you're interested in reading a 1980's review of efforts to make lighter-than-air lifting bodies, airships, and combinations of them, one of my favorite books is John McPhee's "The Deltoid Pumpkin Seed", which goes into considerable detail about the development of a blended-body lighter-than-air airfoil, but also discusses the use of blimps and dirigibles in the 1940's and 1950's. He's got some great stuff in there about their icing capabilities, too: airplanes fall out of the sky with 3 cm of ice over their wings, while US Navy blimps were able to survive ten times that amount of ice during ice storms that stopped all other East Coast transport. (Apparently the main problem with picking up 30 cm of ice, besides them heading downwards in a gentle manner, was that it would sheet off asymmetrically and the airship would have handling problems until a bunch more fell off the other side.)

Re:Not the first try to revive airships (1)

Blakey Rat (99501) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150990)

Yeah, or put another way, we've been hearing about it for 20 years now and we've never seen anything actually in the air... take this story with the same grain of salt.

Re:Not the first try to revive airships (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 4 years ago | (#33151066)

They are not the first trying to revive the airship.

I don't think they're even as high as the tenth... There's been a pretty steady stream of attempts since the 1960's.
 
Of course, the lack of airships tooling about the skies should tell you much.

As long as.. (1)

SvnLyrBrto (62138) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150596)

... I won't have to dodge chocobo droppings, I'm all for it.

Trains will be faster (1)

h00manist (800926) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150614)

The only form of transportation I think could be better that trains is some combination of low-altitude flying pulled by engines on the ground. 100% electric, safety provided by ground, weight of engine, fuel, guidance, etc, supported by ground. Needs some kind of "rail", but fast-switching rails now can be as flexible as roads.

Maybe if they could focus (2, Insightful)

Just_Say_Duhhh (1318603) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150618)

Sure, there is a place on this planet (or just above it) for airships. However, trans-atlantic passenger service isn't one of them.

‘You go to Richmond Park International. At 11 o’clock on Thursday you get on board the SkyCat200. There are hundreds of staterooms on it and you dinner dance your way across the Atlantic. At two o’clock on Friday afternoon you’re getting off at the East River in New York. You’ve travelled 3,000 miles overnight and there’s no jet lag.

Or, you could get on an airplane, be in New York in a fraction of the time, and spend the rest of the day recovering from jet lag.

Realistically, SkyCats would be most useful in the transport of heavy loads – the largest SkyCat can carry up to 200 tons – to harsh environments

That's more like it. If you attack problems like heavy lifting, surveillance, even tasks like fighting forest fires, you don't have to sell it by saying "it's a hybrid"

At that time they tested a full-sized airship against a range of artillery including a Russian mounted machine gun filled with .22 calibre armour-piercing incendiaries and a SAM-7 surface to air missile. What they learnt was this: the airship is almost invincible to attack. Helium is an inert gas, so it doesn’t explode.

Did the test include shooting at the crew? I'm sure they'll find that sitting nearly motionless over a well-armed enemy does not make airship pilots invincible.

"stop shooting at us you idiot" (1)

Thud457 (234763) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150966)

Did the test include shooting at the crew? I'm sure they'll find that sitting nearly motionless over a well-armed enemy does not make airship pilots invincible.

WTF?! [lmgtfy.com]

Call them "ecological airplanes" and quote fuel (1)

h00manist (800926) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150708)

You can call anything ecological now. BP successfully marketed themselves as an ecological energy company. They should stop calling these "airships" and call them "super-ecological-airplanes", quoting fuel usage compared to jets.

Re:Call them "ecological airplanes" and quote fuel (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 4 years ago | (#33151004)

They should stop calling these "airships" and call them "super-ecological-airplanes"

Ummm .. except that an "airplane" is specifically talking about something using a fixed wing [wikipedia.org] for lift.

This is a lighter-than-air vessel that can be steered -- by definition, an airship [wikipedia.org] .

An airship and an airplane are fundamentally different in terms of how they fly.

This is a great idea! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33150720)

I bet it catches on just as fast as the metric system in the US!

Airships simply will not be practical, sorry (4, Insightful)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150724)

This is a parade I've rained on before. Put simply, airships are incompatible with modern logistics and so are not cost effective. Why? Because they rely on buoyancy. Unless you are prepared to waste the expensive gas, turning around an aircraft with any significant cargo (and large numbers of humans are significant) either involves being able to hold the thing down with a force equivalent to its cargo load (not easy on something so large and prone to wind forces), or loading and unloading cargo at a similar rate so the mass of the total stays roughly constant. Otherwise, passengers and freight get off, thing heads rapidly skywards. Not good.

Now imagine the costs if the thing must always take off at constant load. It would be like old sailing ships that had to fill up with gravel ballast to make safe return trips (because if they returned empty the wind could simply push them over.) Currently an Airbus 380 can transport about 150t of freight one way, and if it makes the return journey empty, OK it is a wasted trip but it requires less fuel for takeoff, which is significant on short hauls.

If you try to solve the problem by having pumps to transfer gas from the envelope to storage tanks, to control the buoyancy, you have to factor in the cost of ferrying around the pumps and the tanks. It is not impossible, but it would be complicated and expensive and require extensive safety testing before it could be certified. Much of the simplicity relative to an airplane would be lost - and you still end up with something that requires as much or more room as a 380 - a helicopter replacement this is not.

Re:Airships simply will not be practical, sorry (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33150958)

Good to know you didn't RTFM.

Safe from attack? (1)

longhairedgnome (610579) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150736)

At 20,000 feet, what would an RPG fired by an insurgent do to the thing? That doesn't seem high enough to avoid ground-to-air fire, and without the maneuverability of a fighter jet, or even helicopter...

Re:Safe from attack? (1)

supercrisp (936036) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150912)

That would be some RPG. I don't think there are shoulder-launch SAMs (MANPADs) that can reach that high.

Re:Safe from attack? (1)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150956)

The most common RPG, the RPG-7, firing the most common round would automatically detonate at around 2700 ft.

The Stinger would barely make 15,000 ft.

Airship? AIRSHIP!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33150748)

If you can get beyond the word airship

It's not an airship you stupid thick-headed Saxon git!!! IT'S A BALLOON! [youtube.com] Do you hear!? Airships are for kiddy-winkies!!

.

24 hours to get to Europe? (1)

netsavior (627338) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150818)

It is not a blimp it is a rigid airship!
Hello Airplanes? It's blimps... congratulations you win.

-If you have not watched Archer, you have missed out.

they forgot one. (1)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150856)

would be cooler if it could also be a flarecraft in ground effect.

HAV vs. HAVnot (3, Funny)

beschra (1424727) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150886)

I think the acronym for Hybrid Air Vehicle has a lot of potential.

"If you can get beyond the word airship" (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#33150968)

Why would I want to? It's a wonderful word.

> because that has a lot of history

Yes. A fine one.

Uh hello, planes? It’s blimps. (1)

ChronoFish (948067) | more than 4 years ago | (#33151012)

You win.

  – Archer

Seriously - no Archer fans here? My god this so the Skytanic!

Danger zone anyone? Anyone?

-CF

Lockheed is way ahead with airships (4, Informative)

Animats (122034) | more than 4 years ago | (#33151028)

Lockheed's P-791 airship [youtube.com] has been flying around Palmdale for several years now. This is a product of Lockheed's Skunk Works. It is slightly heavier than air, and those four "feet" are lift fans. This has advantages and disadvantages. It takes fuel to stay up, for one. On the other hand, takeoff and landing are easier; the craft can land on a runway and taxi as a hovercraft. No mooring mast required.

The P-791 looks far more controllable than any previous airship. Rudders and elevators are ineffective at low speed. The P-791 has four propellers, each fully and independently steerable in two axes, plus speed, and maybe blade pitch. Plus the four lift fans. So it is controllable in all six degrees of freedom, even at zero speed. With classic airships, having twenty controls to manage by hand would be hopeless. With flight control computers, it's possible, once the airship has been characterized. That's really what flight tests of the P-791 are for - figuring out the control strategies. In the video,it's clear that the propellers are all being steered independently, which indicates computers and sensors are busily working to stabilize the beast. This is probably an easier job for the Skunk Works controls team than any of the stealth fighters they've done, all of which are unstable in all three axes.

The Zeppelin NT [airshipventures.com] has a similar, but less flexible system, with three steerable fans plus a lateral tail rotor, all controlled by a fly-by-wire system. I suspect that the Skunk Works put more degrees of freedom into their prototype than are really needed, so that they could experiment with different control strategies and find the best way to control their unusual craft.

The Zeppelin NT has a compressor system, so they can reduce lift by compressing some helium into a high pressure tank and letting some of the ballonets deflate a little. This is preferable to dumping ballast or helium.

We get it, you're British.. (-1, Troll)

Paracelcus (151056) | more than 4 years ago | (#33151030)

"football pitches" Huh?
"silver and crockery" you mean dishes, right?
"frolicking dogs" Whaddya?
"mug of Lady Grey" Tut, tut!
"mulish lay people" We call em Lusers
"sheep, a duck and a cockerel" a Whaterel, do you mean a chicken?
"too Byzantine for a computer to process" would it have killed you to say complicated?
"22 calibre armour-piercing incendiaries" I think you meant 22 millimeter

helium shortage (1)

brenddie (897982) | more than 4 years ago | (#33151038)

Even if it runs on renewable energy, isnt there a Heluim shortage that will make it dependent on a scarce non renewable "propulsion" source?
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