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Dirigible Airship Prototype Approaches Completion

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the float-away dept.

Transportation 231

cylonlover writes "The dirigible airship, the oddball aircraft of another era, is making a comeback. California-based Aeros Corporation has created a prototype of its new breed of variable buoyancy aircraft and expects the vehicle to be finished before the end of 2012. With its new cargo handling technology, minimum fuel consumption, vertical take-off and landing features and point to point delivery, the Aeroscraft platform promises to revolutionize airship technology. The Aeroscraft ship uses a suite of new mechanical and aerospace technologies. It operates off a buoyancy management system which controls and adjusts the buoyancy of the vehicle, making it light or heavy for any stages of ground and flight operation. Automatic flight control systems give it equilibrium in all flight modes and allow it to adjust helium pressurized envelopes depending on the buoyancy requirements. It just needs one pilot and has an internal ballast control system, which allows it to offload cargo, without using ballast. Built with a rigid structure, the Aeroscraft can control lift at all stages with its Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) capabilities and carry maximum payload while in hover. What makes it different from other cargo vehicles is that it does not need a runway or ground infrastructure."

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231 comments

Lost Crusade (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42200901)

Will the pilot be able to say:
"Farshein mein herr" with a German accent?

but if you don't have a ticket punch you out windo (3, Funny)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year ago | (#42200999)

but if you don't have a ticket he will punch you out of the window. And that is how you say good by in German.

Every decade event (5, Insightful)

esldude (1157749) | about a year ago | (#42200905)

Seems this comes up every decade or so. There are some advantages in niches. But in the end, the large volume craft, at relatively slow speeds, and relatively less useful when winds are up seem to doom it from becoming a highly useful aircraft.

Re:Every decade event (5, Interesting)

AlphaWolf_HK (692722) | about a year ago | (#42200927)

You have to wonder though if it will ever become more practical than traditional cargo ships. I imagine it would take less energy to stay airborne (given that it relies upon buoyancy rather than thrust) therefore making it more energy efficient than a jumbo jet, and might need less energy to stay in motion than a watercraft given the lower resistance of the air vs water.

Sure, you might need more of them, but pound for pound can it cost less to transport the goods than a cargo ship? I imagine if they added solar power, that would wipe out much of the operating cost. (Plus I've heard something like current cargo ships have a much larger carbon footprint than most of the world's cars combined.)

Re:Every decade event (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42200965)

1) You need thrust if you want to go anywhere.
2) The higher resistance of water makes propellers more efficient. It's the reason prop planes have a maximum ceiling.
3) Not sure how efficient these would be for cargo transport, however they are extremely efficient at sending hundreds of tourists plunging to a spectacular death.

Re:Every decade event (4, Informative)

A nonymous Coward (7548) | about a year ago | (#42201493)

Prop plane max ceiling is due to losing lift for the wings and oxygen for the engines at high altitudes, same as jet planes. Jets being faster, and lift being proportional to the square of the speed, jets can go higher, but it's got nothing to do with resistance of props.

Prop planes have a lot more trouble breaking the sound barrier. I know sometimes prop tips go supersonic, but they lose efficiency, and I don't think any prop plane has ever gone supersonic, even in a dive out of control.

Re:Every decade event (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42201599)

By your standards planes are far more efficient at sending hundreds of tourists to their deaths.

Re:Every decade event (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42200973)

Short answer: no, airships will always be less efficient than water ships.

The volume of air that must be displaced vs. volume of water is so much greater than any airship yard you find would be the size of Arkansas. Those steampunk airships you see? They would have to have buoyancy chambers orders of magnitude larger than depicted to float.

As a matter of fact, the vast majority of the fluid resistance encountered by container ships is the containers themselves on top, since the hull can be made very low-resistance, but boxes cannot. Their fuel efficiency issues stem exclusively for extremely weak regulations on emissions.

So no, airships will always be tourist attractions. No one wants to pay more money to transport things less quickly.

FedEx (1)

mveloso (325617) | about a year ago | (#42201069)

"So no, airships will always be tourist attractions. No one wants to pay more money to transport things less quickly."

If it's faster than a container, slower than air freight, and has a price to match, there will be a market for it.

Realistically speaking, though, they don't seem to lift very well. I'm looking at the O-1 airship: 177 feet long, cargo weight of 3290 lbs. That's pretty lame. The soviet V6 was 344ft and could to 20k lbs...which is less than 1/3 the maximum weight of a 20-foot container.

However, as a large semi-stationary platform it would be ideal. I'm not sure how happy I'd be having an airship permanently anchored over my city, though from what I understand you get used to it.

Re:FedEx (2)

SomePgmr (2021234) | about a year ago | (#42201137)

According to the wiki entry this is more of a technology demonstrator, with a number of much larger, practical models in the works. 20, 60 and 500 ton capacity, and can be converted to carry people.

At 120 knots, they're not fast, but if the cost works out that you can take a longer, more comfortable flight, more like traveling by large boat, some might prefer it over a traditional flight for vacation destinations and such.

Beep Beep Satelite (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42201211)

Or for scientific observations which benefit from an up-close bird's eye view. Hard to come up with a better way to get mobile observers able to camp out all night in one spot at an arbitrary distance over the treetops. Throw the anchor over and grab your binoculars, Mrs. Goodall, we're gonna observe some rainforest/ocean wild life that foot-traffic / boats will never get us close enough to see!

All that treacherous, melting Arctic ice? Mountain goats and edelweiss? Forget clomping around on/near fragile (deadly!!) lava floes, we're gonna sit here with some long sticks and have a cookout while watching the cauldron!

Re:FedEx (3, Informative)

wvmarle (1070040) | about a year ago | (#42201285)

Try landing any of those in a typhoon, for 500 ton lifting capacity the blimp must be huge, and no matter how streamlined it's going to catch a lot of wind. Keeping them grounded in a typhoon will be a tall order even.

Re:FedEx (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about a year ago | (#42201975)

I remember when a blimp got away during a storm over Melbourne. The TV crew got some great footage of the horizon swinging around by 180 degrees every few seconds.

Re:FedEx (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42201471)

I can imagine that they could be used for transporting things that right now there is no easy way to move.

For example, mining trucks are limited in size by their tires. Since tires must be shipped from the factory in one piece, they can't be more than about 4-5m in diameter or they wouldn't be able to be transported by road. If you could transport them in the air, size would be irrelevant. At 6 tons times 6 tires, you would need a payload capacity of 36 tons to be able to move the tires from the factory to the mine site.

Another example is oil fields and mines in Alaska and nothern Canada. Since there no roads going to them, equipment can only be moved in the winter when the land and lakes are frozen solid. With an airship, they could move equipment all year long. With a 60 ton capacity, it would be able to haul more than a tractor-trailer, and at 120kt it would go significantly faster too.

dom

Re:FedEx (0)

Tough Love (215404) | about a year ago | (#42201757)

One tornado and it's gone. Big waste of helium.

Re:FedEx (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42201895)

One tornado and it's gone. Big waste of helium.

I don't recall too many other cargo options that enjoy typhoons.

Re:FedEx (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about a year ago | (#42201967)

At 120 knots, they're not fast, but if the cost works out that you can take a longer, more comfortable flight, more like traveling by large boat, some might prefer it over a traditional flight for vacation destinations and such.

Fast air travel is cheap because you don't have to pay high labor costs for more than a few hours. Slow air travel would be as expensive as living in a hotel for the duration of the flight, as is sea travel.

Re:FedEx (1)

Coisiche (2000870) | about a year ago | (#42202009)

However, as a large semi-stationary platform it would be ideal.

For whom?

In pondering this, I see many more sinister applications than civilian ones.

Re:Every decade event (1)

dbIII (701233) | about a year ago | (#42201485)

Some events during the circumnavigation of the world by the Graf Zeppelin showed that you really have to be lucky with the weather with something so huge that moves so slowly. The early aviator Wilkes was a passenger and wrote a few things about that that have been reprinted in a few places, but it can be summed up as a hair raising trip dodging bad weather.
Then again, while that one couldn't get above bad weather maybe something more recent may be able to. While high strength aluminium alloys today are virtually identical to the ones used back then maybe something with titanium or aerogels could get up a bit higher even on helium, plus I'm sure the gas bags today are much lighter than the ones from back then.

Re:Every decade event (2)

Vintermann (400722) | about a year ago | (#42201517)

Cargo ships are extremely efficient at what they do. They may have a large carbon footprint, but they have a very low carbon footprint per kg of goods transported compared to your car.

Re:Every decade event (2)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year ago | (#42201789)

They may have a large carbon footprint, but they have a very low carbon footprint per kg of goods transported compared to your car.

Whether that's true or not, the biggest problem with cargo ships is that they are extremely polluting. They run on a lower grade of diesel than do other things and have no emission controls.

Re:Every decade event (1)

Vintermann (400722) | about a year ago | (#42201933)

There could be easy environmental savings by making them run on cleaner fuel, possibly. But there are no easy savings by switching to other transport methods, because there's nothing that can remotely compete.

Re:Every decade event (2)

StoneyMahoney (1488261) | about a year ago | (#42201999)

The raw CO2 figures look pretty big on paper, but are meaningless without comparing the CO2 emissions of the various modes of transport in terms of something like tonne/kilometer. Check out the second table here:

https://people.exeter.ac.uk/TWDavies/energy_conversion/Calculation%20of%20CO2%20emissions%20from%20fuels.htm [exeter.ac.uk]

(NB: seems to be an error in the second table header. Given the actual data units, I think it should say "KG CO2 per KM")

The results here are fairly varied in the final units they come out with, mainly because the different forms of transport considered are so different, but the eye-browing raising figure is that short haul passenger flights emit the same amount of carbon per person per kilometer as moving 18 tonnes of cargo by ship the same distance!

Re:Every decade event (2)

antifoidulus (807088) | about a year ago | (#42200943)

Well for starters it can drastically simplify logistical supply chains.... Right now if you want to ship something you either have to do air(insanely expensive) or some combination of ship, rail, and road(usually on both ends, i.e. factory -> rail -> road ->sea -> rail->road->destination) The airship is able to take advantage of existing air fields, so theoretically you could just go factory -> airship -> destination(obviously with a tiny bit of road to get it from the airport to the destination, same as shipping by plane). Obviously with JIT manufacturing being all the rage, the ability to stick to schedules will be imperative, but it isn't like road/train/ship delays are exactly unheard of either.

Re:Every decade event (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42201001)

Rail? Where the fuck do you live? The fucking unions in the U.S. have made that shit so expensive it's more cost effective to just use truck the whole way. Even comparing passenger services state-run Amtrak loses unholy sums every year while Greyhound keeps on kickin'.

Re:Every decade event (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42201155)

Amtrak is a different business than freight rail, which....is doing quite fine.

They just had their biggest June ever.

http://transportationnation.org/2012/07/06/u-s-freight-rail-has-biggest-june-ever/

Keep lying though, nobody will care what frauds you spew as long as you bash unions.

Re:Every decade event (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42201539)

Most people are terrible at critical thinking, especially you. "Biggest June ever" is not evidence that shipping via rail costs less than truck.

Re:Every decade event (5, Interesting)

afidel (530433) | about a year ago | (#42201275)

25% of all ton-miles, and 42% of all inter-city freight are carried via rail in the US. The percentage of all freight carried by rail has been increasing with the cost of oil because of the significantly higher efficiency. In fact today the US carries about the same percentage of cargo via rail that the EU does.

Re:Every decade event (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42201449)

Rail is used for freight that cannot be shipped by truck. Go out and get some fucking quotes if you don't believe me. I've been in the wholesale industry here in the U.S. for over ten years.

Re:Every decade event (5, Informative)

afidel (530433) | about a year ago | (#42201487)

My dads company ships tankers and half-tankers of industrial chemicals all the time, they also ship lots of those same chemicals via truck, but if it's going inter-city and the recipient is buying at least a half-tanker it's always cheaper to do it via rail. Also look at automobiles, 70% of autos are shipped via rail, those can obviously be shipped via truck, and they're not exactly low-margin or low-value items, so why do you think that is? Perhaps rail doesn't work for your industry, but there are obviously plenty of industries where it does work.

Re:Every decade event (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42201341)

The fucking unions in the U.S. have made that shit so expensive it's more cost effective to just use truck the whole way.

I guess that's one way of looking at it. Another way is understanding that trucks are only cheaper because most drivers routinely violate the rules. And by rules, I mean speeding and driving for so many hours straight that they can barely stay awake without a big dose of.... stimulants.

Re:Every decade event (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42201489)

It's funny, because you're absolutely incorrect. Freight rail in the US is damn near the cheapest in the world. Even fucking India, where $.25 will buy you a meal, is more expensive.

Re:Every decade event (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42201169)

Yup - more or less a decade since Cargolifter [wikipedia.org] went bust.

Only thing they successfully lifted was 300m EUR of investors cash. Still, they at least managed to buid a right funky hangar tho..

Faster than Greyhound buss travel (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42200909)

I think this could be good for human transit between cities in the range of 1-2 hours away. I dunno why I say that. I think it has something to do with the impression that they travel faster than cars and can store more people. UMPA LUMPA TIME MOTHER FUCKER

Funny idea... He He He... (4, Insightful)

cervesaebraciator (2352888) | about a year ago | (#42200917)

Given all the articles I've read about helium shortages et al., I'm not sure I'd invest in a company that claims He based dirigibles are about to make a comeback.

Re:Funny idea... He He He... (1)

ipquickly (1562169) | about a year ago | (#42200967)

There is always hydrogen. Sure it has a bad rap, but can't we make hydrogen more safer?
Automatic pressure release. Static control materials, etc.

I don't see why hydrogen - although it is very dangerous - has been abandoned as an alternative.

Re:Funny idea... He He He... (2)

meglon (1001833) | about a year ago | (#42201149)

Because we can't make hydrogen more safe. The explanation for why it was abandoned is pretty simple: Hindenburg. Admittedly there were a variety of other mishaps, and the Hindenburg wasn't even the worst, but it was the one that the news media had the best coverage of.

Re:Funny idea... He He He... (5, Interesting)

Zorpheus (857617) | about a year ago | (#42201253)

The Hindenburg disaster was spectacular, but was it really that bad? Nearly 2/3 of the people on board survived.
And I am wondering how much more safe this could be built. The Hindenburg consisted of hydrogen-filled cells which were located within the air-filled hull. Seems rather stupid to me to build it this way, since only the confined air allowed hydrogen and air to mix without ascending away from the airship. The other thing was that the hull was burning very well since it was soaked in linoleum oil. In a TV report it was actually claimed that the fire we see is only the burning hull, since a hydrogen flame is invisible.
Where is the danger if hydrogen coming out of a leak would just ascend and get diluted quickly in the air? The pure hydrogen in the cells can not burn.

Re:Funny idea... He He He... (4, Interesting)

wvmarle (1070040) | about a year ago | (#42201335)

The Mythbusters did an episode on the Hindenburg. Indeed because what you see burn is the outer hull. Hydrogen burns, burns fast, and is gone fast. It doesn't explode unless mixed with air - the Hindenburg didn't explode, it just burned really fast.

Well long story short: the Mythbusters found out that the hull of the Hindenburg (just like the other Zeppelins at the time) was coated in something that closely resembled thermite, making it highly flammable. The hull on its own burned well, but the combination with hydrogen is what made it go really fast.

Now sure there is a lot to say about their methods, and the rather shallow research, but the conclusion is quite clear: it was not just the hydrogen, it was not just the coating, it was the combination of the two. Somehow the hydrogen acts as catalyst boosting the burning of the outer hull. Only when they burned a coated hull filled with hydrogen they got a burn that resembled the Hindenburg disaster.

Hydrogen will always be a fire risk, but it can be lessened by making the hull non-flammable. Something that we can do, but the Germans at the time not, or at least not as easily. Whether we can make it safe enough for modern standards, that is another matter.

Re:Funny idea... He He He... (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about a year ago | (#42202027)

The root cause of the Hindenburg disaster seems to have been a loss of structural integrity when the aircraft made a sudden turn before landing. The turn ruptured a gas bag and released hydrogen into the atmosphere, Other airship designs are vulnerable to this as well. But I have an idea: lets fill it with vacuum.

Re:Funny idea... He He He... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42201353)

In a TV report it was actually claimed that the fire we see is only the burning hull, since a hydrogen flame is invisible.

While it's true the visible flames were from the burning shell, if you pay attention you'll see a shitload of water falling as well. That's what happens when you burn hydrogen.

Re:Funny idea... He He He... (1)

ozmanjusri (601766) | about a year ago | (#42201405)

That's what happens when you burn hydrogen.

Or of it's raining...

But in fact the water produced by burning hydrogen wouldn't condense so fast. Most of the water you see in the film of the disaster was from their ballast.

Re:Funny idea... He He He... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42201157)

I dunno, perhaps due to the Luftschiff Zeppelin #129, the Hindenburg.

Re:Funny idea... He He He... (1)

Tough Love (215404) | about a year ago | (#42201761)

There is always hydrogen. Sure it has a bad rap, but can't we make hydrogen more safer?

Oh I know, mix it with nitogen!

Re:Funny idea... He He He... (1)

afidel (530433) | about a year ago | (#42201303)

If Helium had any economic value we'd be capturing literally tons of the stuff right now, all sorts of natural gas production is going on and I'd assume some non-trivial percentage of those wells contain a decent percentage He, but even though natural gas is at an alltime low due to a massive supply glut nobody is bothering to capture what should be a value biproduct because the government has been selling the stuff at a below-cost-to-produce pricepoint for decades. Sell off the reserves or start selling it at cost higher than the replacement costs and you'll see more production.

Re:Funny idea... He He He... (1)

Neil Boekend (1854906) | about a year ago | (#42201831)

We just need to get fusion to work on such a scale that we convert enough hydrogen to helium to make it work.

Can't find how much energy we would need to produce to make enough helium to make a significant contribution, nor how hot this planet would become (each TWh produced must be radiated away). It may be so much energy that we'd be swimming in molten rock to get a decent amount of helium.

The annual staple of science magazines. (2)

dorpus (636554) | about a year ago | (#42200931)

Every year, without fail, there is an article about the blimp renaissance. Been that way since the 1930s. Akron calls itself the blimp capital of the world. I remember a college job fair where there was some kooky company from Quebec that made hydrogen-filled blimps, and they insisted that hydrogen is not flammable.

Re:The annual staple of science magazines. (1)

dorpus (636554) | about a year ago | (#42200949)

And I remember a demonstration from a chemistry 101 class where a professor put a blowtorch to an air-filled balloon vs. a hydrogen-filled balloon. The latter had a much louder explosion.

Re:The annual staple of science magazines. (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year ago | (#42201117)

And I remember a demonstration from a chemistry 101 class where a professor put a blowtorch to an air-filled balloon vs. a hydrogen-filled balloon. The latter had a much louder explosion.

If it exploded, then it wasn't filled with hydrogen, but rather a mixture of hydrogen and air. If the hydrogen was pure, it would have burned, and quickly, but there would have been no "bang".

Hydrogen is flammable, but since it rises quickly, it is less dangerous than gasoline vapor. Over a billion people safely use gasoline everyday.

Re:The annual staple of science magazines. (1)

FrankSchwab (675585) | about a year ago | (#42201249)

The problem with hydrogen, of course, is that it burns at a wide range of concentrations - from 4 to 75%, according to Wikipedia. Gasoline only burns at between 1.4 and 7.5% in air. So a hydrogen leak is far more likely to catch fire or explode than a gasoline leak.

Re:The annual staple of science magazines. (2)

wvmarle (1070040) | about a year ago | (#42201343)

The BALLOON explodes, not the hydrogen.

The extra bang comes thanks to the quick burning of the hydrogen - when the balloon bursts, the hydrogen is like a cloud in the air, and for a short while can be ignited. Which is exactly what that blowtorch does. When the balloon bursts the hydrogen will instantly ignite, and burn really rapidly, causing the louder "boom" you hear.

Re:The annual staple of science magazines. (1)

azalin (67640) | about a year ago | (#42201451)

The usual setup for this "experiment" would consist of a Hydrogen only and a Hydrogen+Oxygen filled balloon. An air filled third balloon might be optional, but doesn't really make much sense. Fill them, let them rise to the ceiling, attach a candle to a stick, place burning candle under balloon. While the first might be slightly louder than an air filled balloon, the second one will be substantially.

Re:The annual staple of science magazines. (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | about a year ago | (#42201557)

I don't think you really want to explode a whole balloon full of hydrogen+oxygen. At least not if you value your ears, and your windows. A 5-8 cm soap bubble of the stuff gives a pretty serious bang already...

Re:The annual staple of science magazines. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42201311)

You might want to brush up on the fire triangle [wikipedia.org]. Hydrogen is a fuel, but still requires oxygen and heat to create an explosion or a fire.

Re:The annual staple of science magazines. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42201375)

Quebec that made hydrogen-filled blimps, and they insisted that hydrogen is not flammable.

Well technically it's not.... until it mixes with oxygen. But the same is also true for gasoline.

It's just another case of people not understanding chemistry. Another fun example of using chemistry to fuck with people is the classic steel wool demonstration. If you have a mass of X in the form of steel wool, you can light it with a kitchen match, but that same mass of steel in a solid pellet won't even begin to melt.

When you dumb down education and keep knowledge from the population, you can sell people pretty much anything as long as you word it properly.

This time round, this might even work (4, Interesting)

muecksteiner (102093) | about a year ago | (#42200945)

For niche markets, that is. Such as point-to-point delivery of oversized and/or very heavy loads that are simply not transportable by road. A rugged and dependable vehicle of this kind could probably sell some dozen copies across the U.S., and even more world-wide. If these guys are sensible about their corporate cost structure, and do not base their expenditure on expectations of selling thousands of the things, they could be just fine, and be in this for the long run.

If their basic airship design is sound, of course. But it probably is - getting that sort of thing right is not *that* hard. They could do fairly nicely working examples in the 1920ies (provided they did not fill them with Hydrogen, but fire protection should be a no-brainer these days).

And the worst enemy of airships, the weather, is now firmly under control from an operational viewpoint - something it was absolutely not back then. Weather forecasts are so accurate nowadays that such vehicles can just reliably avoid those areas where they could get into trouble. One would not be operating scheduled services that have to be at some point at a given time with them anyway. With these specialised heavy lifters, you would rather be delivering oversized pieces of machinery and such in a one-off fashion. And if one of these things arrives two days late because of a thunderstorm front, it is usually not that much of a problem.

Re:This time round, this might even work (1)

mister2au (1707664) | about a year ago | (#42201181)

That was my first thought too ...

But then I could not really see why this design would out-perform the helicopter/airship hybrid designs - most of those have thrust vectoring props which seems to be a more responsive system for hover and add the possibility of faster horizontal flight.

Re:This time round, this might even work (1)

muecksteiner (102093) | about a year ago | (#42201243)

It probably would not outperform one of those, if something like that existed. But I'm not aware of any such vehicle that is currently operational (or even under active development), in the size/lifting capacity bracket that this company is aiming for?

In my opinion, the main selling point of their ships would be the lifting capacity of 66 tons. The largest helicopter out there, the Mi-26, can lift 20 tons at most, and has fairly atrocious operating costs per hour. And as stuff increases in weight, so do its chances of not fitting on a truck any longer - think outsized pieces of machinery, and such. In some specialised cases, it can make a big difference for economical assembly of factories, powerplants and such if you can ship in some bulky pieces of machinery that weigh up to 66 tons apiece without having to assemble them on-site. So a couple of such ships might find steady employment all over the country for odd jobs like that.

Whether they will sell enough of them to break even is anyone's guess. But as I said - if they are sensible, and keep the ball low, they just might pull it off. Just build a unsophisticated big lifter that gets stuff done, avoid the temptation to re-invent the wheel and to add fancy gizmos or revolutionary tech, and they should be fine.

Re:This time round, this might even work (4, Insightful)

afidel (530433) | about a year ago | (#42201325)

One obvious use to me is in the delivery of the parts for windmills. Those things are absolutely huge and are pretty much by definition installed in places without a road network. That work alone could probably justify more than a dozen ships since we're expecting to build tens of thousands of windmills in the coming decades.

Re:This time round, this might even work (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42201355)

Of course, you mean Wind Turbines. The modern world doesn't really use wind for milling corn these days. :)

-Jaruzel

Re:This time round, this might even work (1)

mrclisdue (1321513) | about a year ago | (#42201889)

Except that we modern folk call them "windmills" today, just as we'll call them "windmills" tomorrow, and no amount of shouts from the micro-percentile of the populace of, "That's not correct! It's the longer, awkward, unfluid dual-word "wind turbine"", will ever change that.

Citation? See "hacker".

cheers,

Re:This time round, this might even work (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42201845)

One obvious use to me is in the delivery of the parts for windmills. Those things are absolutely huge and are pretty much by definition installed in places without a road network.

Windmill n. An object installed in places without a road network.

Re:This time round, this might even work (1)

Vintermann (400722) | about a year ago | (#42201569)

These days, PR reasons are probably the best reasons they shouldn't be filled with hydrogen. We know how to build non-flammable hulls, and even on the Hindenburg, most of the passengers survived (compare that to plane crashes).

revolutionize airship technology? (3, Insightful)

mister2au (1707664) | about a year ago | (#42200947)

Revolutionary?

Nope ... just the Segway of the Dirigible world ...

Re:revolutionize airship technology? (2)

cervesaebraciator (2352888) | about a year ago | (#42200969)

It could be r3VOLutionary if only they wrote Ron Paul [xkcd.com] across the side. Though, given his views on the Fed, I think he'd object to its self-inflationary capabilities.

If I had a cent (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42201011)

for every airship that was going to be built and operated commercially in the last 20 years, I would have had a lot of cents. If I had a cent for every time one of these efforts have been sold as a bright new idea, as though nobody else has thought about doing it since the Germans decided to coat an airship in rocket fuel and then acted all surprised when it caught fire, I would have even more cents.

If there is one thing I've learned from all these efforts, it is that for some weird reason, the NEVER work. Ever. Not one of them has gone anywhere commercially, physically and financially. And what makes it really weird is that there is no reason it shouldn't work commercially.

Stop Using Helium! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42201099)

I don't understand why our government subsidizes consumption of a finite resource only generated by radioactive decay. I don't know if this would be practical if the cost of helium actually reflected its scarcity.

Airship Ventures Out Of Business (5, Informative)

Bruce Perens (3872) | about a year ago | (#42201105)

As you can see on their web site, Airship Ventures [airshipventures.com] is out of business and there's a campaign to save the airship from being scrapped.

Re:Airship Ventures Out Of Business (1)

Vintermann (400722) | about a year ago | (#42201623)

Very sad, and strange that they couldn't get it working in San Francisco of all places. You'd think there was a better market for it there than in Friedrichshafen, where they have been running a similar operation for some 15 years. Maybe Germany just has more airship nuts still.

Airships are still too valuable to be "scrapped" like a regular ship, though. Eureka isn't turning into nails... What's going to happen is that the company in Friedrichshafen will get the dismantled ship back, as they sold all their ships with that stipulation.

Non-renewable resource (4, Informative)

MMORG (311325) | about a year ago | (#42201129)

Helium is a non-renewable resource, even more so than liquid hydrocarbon fuels. At least with jet fuel you could synthesize it if you really wanted to and had a large enough energy input, but the only way to synthesize helium is to fuse hydrogen in large quantities and if we knew how to do that in a controllable fashion we probably wouldn't need to mess around with dirigibles. Once you extract helium from the ground it eventually ends up in the atmosphere and then escapes to space, so once it's gone it's gone for good.

Re:Non-renewable resource (1)

afidel (530433) | about a year ago | (#42201329)

We're already extracting tons and tons of Helium every year, we're just not bothering to capture it because it has no economic value.

Re:Non-renewable resource (1)

jsilver212 (584955) | about a year ago | (#42201565)

We're already extracting tons and tons of Helium every year, we're just not bothering to capture it because it has no economic value.

Is helium extraction output really measured in tons? I'd think negative tons would be a more helpful metric. Anyway, I would buy He in tanks by cubic feet and psi.

Re:Non-renewable resource (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42201683)

Is helium extraction output really measured in tons? I'd think negative tons would be a more helpful metric. Anyway, I would buy He in tanks by cubic feet and psi.

Mass and weight are separate measurements. One is of the amount of matter, the other is of force.

Re:Non-renewable resource (1)

Tough Love (215404) | about a year ago | (#42201861)

23% of the baryonic mass of the universe is helium, the vast majority created within three minutes of the big bang. According to Wikipedia.

In history (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42201345)

... the oddball aircraft of another era, is making a comeback ...

This comes around every 20 years. But remember the 2 purposes for dirigibles were war and leisure cruises. In warfare they have been surpassed by the jet engine. And the 'Hindenburg' disaster reminds everyone they were not safe for leisure. Those reasons are gone but such large blimps cannot handle inclement weather. Lastly, the carrying capacity of a cargo ship will beat any airship. They may have a niche role traversing mountainous terrain but that is it.

Re:In history (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42201909)

...They may have a niche role traversing mountainous terrain but that is it.

Seriously? In the 90 seconds of thought you've given to the subject, you've defined the only possible use?

I need not read any farther, oh Master. May I please subscribe to your channel?

CargoLifter (1)

hholzgra (6914) | about a year ago | (#42201385)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CargoLifter - made it about as far as building a small blimp-size prototype and a nice large assembly hangar for "the real thing" ... which is now used as a large indoor beach resort instead

And even back then it was pretty clear that their planned fleet size whould totally exhaust available Helium supplies ...

Use Vacuum instead of Helium (1)

GoodnaGuy (1861652) | about a year ago | (#42201785)

This would require a smaller volume balloon than the equivalent helium balloon. There is the small technological breakthrough that needs to be made for the containment vessel. At the moment the only thing that can contain a vaccuum is something very thick and heavy like steel which would ruin the whole project.

Re:Use Vacuum instead of Helium (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42201987)

Once the tech develops, it will be very compact, because the deflated state will not need gas storage. It would just start to take up a higher surface, and a vacuum comes into being in the middle!

self adhesive label, shirt supplier (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42201867)

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No payload - no interest :( (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42201925)

from TFA:

Editor's note: this article was amended on 6/12/2012 on receiving updated information from the company stating that the prototype Aersocraft is not designed to carry a payload.

Physics (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42201963)

How does it adjust its weight mid-air?!?

Hydrogen isn't that bad (4, Informative)

Catmeat (20653) | about a year ago | (#42202035)

I should point out that aside from the Hindenberg, the only time airships ever went down in flames was during World War 1, when they were being shot at. Even then, German Zepplins could take a lot of damage, and it was only when British aircraft started carrying a mixture of explosive and incendiary rounds (called Buckingham and Pomeroy mixture, after the inventors of the two bullet types) that they could feasably destroy a Zeppelin. Even then, aircraft attacking Zeppelins sometimes found themselves firing hundreds of rounds, at a range too close to miss, and having no. Remember, today we don't doubt the safety of 747s, simply because World War 2, B-17 bombers used to come apart when they were shot at enough.

Also during World War 1, the British operated hundreds of SS Class [wikipedia.org], Coastal Class [wikipedia.org] and NS Class [wikipedia.org], non-rigid blimps. Not a single one was lost to fire during 10's of thousands of flying hours. Admittedly, several WW1 British airships were destroyed in a catastrophic fire in a hanger, but that was because one Darwin Award nominee decided to get busy with testing a radio, while he was standing in a puddle of petrol that was leaking from a broken fuel tank.

So I'm inclined to write off the Hindenberg as a on-off, at a time when aircraft routinely dropped out of the sky. I might even go so far as to give a tiniest whisker of credence to the conspiracy theory, that it was down to an anti-Nazi saboteur.

Now, I fully appreciate hydrogen dirigibles will absolutely never, ever, ever, fly again simply because of PR and (well justified) safety fears. But I guess my point is that they could be made safe, or at least, safe enough if there was a need.

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