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Aeroscraft Begins Flight Testing Following FAA Certification

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the I'm-floating dept.

Transportation 158

Zothecula writes "After a 70-year absence, it appears that a new rigid frame airship will soon be taking to the skies over California. Aeros Corporation, a company based near San Diego, has received experimental airworthiness certification from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to begin flight testing the Aeroscraft airship, and it appears that the company has wasted no time getting started."

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Because I had to look it up... (1)

grasshoppa (657393) | about a year ago | (#44801679)

Re:Because I had to look it up... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44801763)

I for one welcome our new, rigid, overlords... uh... that sounded wrong... I take that back!

Re:Because I had to look it up... (2)

superdave80 (1226592) | about a year ago | (#44802067)

Oh yes, you welcome them. You welcome them LONG TIME!

Re:Because I had to look it up... (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44802045)

You woudn't have if you'd just RTFA, which BTW was excellent and described a whole lot of the technology that went into this thing. For instance, how it can land without a huge ground crew, why it doesn't take off when cargo is offloaded, why it's necessary in the first place. Its use will be for places like northern Canada and the Australian outback where there's no airport and no landing strip and no infrastructure whatever but where there are a lot of resources like timber and minerals.

This is one FA you should R. You'll not have to look anything up on wikipedia.

Re:Because I had to look it up... (1)

evilviper (135110) | about a year ago | (#44802343)

Its use will be for places like northern Canada and the Australian outback where there's no airport and no landing strip and no infrastructure whatever but where there are a lot of resources like timber and minerals.

Northern Canada makes sense, but I'm having a hard time imagining its use in Australia... That's one of the FLATTEST countries on earth, with the EASIEST road construction possible. Building a road involves drawing a line on a map, cutting the brush, and dropping the asphalt, and you might even be able to skip the asphalt... There are exceedingly few areas of any terrain features that need to be bridged. While roads aren't cheap to construct, they can't be THAT expensive in the remote areas of Australia.

Re:Because I had to look it up... (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#44802367)

Road on totally flat terrain is still not cheap, you have to truck all that asphalt out there and cut down all that brush. 1 million dollars might get you 10 miles of single lane. More likely half that. Australia is big.

Re:Because I had to look it up... (1)

alexander_686 (957440) | about a year ago | (#44802699)

I too am still scratching my heads. Canada is amazing expensive – because you can’t just dump asphalt on the ground. Specifically, the mineral mines that lay in the far north. I think most of the road is tundra which is fiendishly tough to build roads on. No exactly a cite but..

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ice_Road_Truckers [wikipedia.org]

Re:Because I had to look it up... (1)

evilviper (135110) | about a year ago | (#44803429)

Road on totally flat terrain is still not cheap

Neither is an airship...

you have to truck all that asphalt out there and cut down all that brush

As I said already, you MAY be able to do without the asphalt. Australian truck-train drivers aren't unfamiliar with unpaved dirt roads, and they work reasonably well in the outback. They're more likely to get washed-out and impassable for some time, but with low volume trucking (which is surely what we're talking about) that's an easy trade-off to make.

Re:Because I had to look it up... (1)

flyneye (84093) | about a year ago | (#44803937)

""After a 70-year absence, it appears that a new rigid frame airship will soon be taking to the skies over California..."
It will be delivering medical marijuana to sun kings stranded poolside in Santa Barbara. Follow the money, jeez, the Canada thing is just publicity. Shhhhhh.

a 10 month absence (5, Informative)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | about a year ago | (#44802101)

""After a 70-year absence, it appears that a new rigid frame airship will soon be taking to the skies over California..."

No, not a 70 year absence: a ten month absence. Zeppelin "Eureka" was flying over California from 2008 to 2012.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Airship_Ventures [wikipedia.org]

--couldn't make enough money flying sightseeing cruises to pay its way, alas
http://mountainview.patch.com/groups/business-news/p/airship-ventures-says-goodbye [patch.com]

Re:a 10 month absence (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44802193)

Airship Ventures operates a Semi-Rigid Airship, not a Rigid Airship

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zeppelin_NT

Re:a 10 month absence (2)

Chris Mattern (191822) | about a year ago | (#44802207)

No, not a 70 year absence: a ten month absence. Zeppelin "Eureka" was flying over California from 2008 to 2012.

Eureka is semi-rigid. It doesn't have a framework around the entire gas envelope.

Re:a 10 month absence (4, Funny)

immaterial (1520413) | about a year ago | (#44802619)

Trust me, after 70 years even semi-rigid is something to be proud of.

ground-breaking airship (5, Funny)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year ago | (#44801709)

What, did they land too hard?

must we endure.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44801723)

this "airships are coming back and will be doing useful things soon" news wave every few years? do they alternate with flying cars?

Re:must we endure.. (1)

hedwards (940851) | about a year ago | (#44801765)

I like airships, the problem is that they're not practical these days. Back in the '30s, I'm sure they were great, but the parts of the world that can afford lighter than air travel, also have decent railroads and highway systems that can make the trip with more efficiency.

I suppose this might replace ships for passengers, but even there, I can't imagine it being practical.

Re:must we endure.. (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#44801793)

These can also be used in places that cannot afford those things. Imagine you have a large mine in some third world nation and need to get your product to port, but there are no roads for large vehicles. Since this craft can become heavier than air at will it is easier to land and can deal with weather far better than previous airships.

Re:must we endure.. (1, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | about a year ago | (#44801873)

I don't think you understand how lighter than air crafts work. Yes, they can use the engines for a bit of lift, but no, they can't be used as you describe. These craft have severely limited capacity for cargo, ever seen a photo of one of those things? The size of the compartment is tiny compared with the rest of the craft.

What's more, you'd be far, far better off just getting a Chinook, as those are much smaller and are designed to handle a substantial amount of cargo.

But, even a Chinook is going to be more expensive than just trucking it. Anybody with a mine doing substantial volume is going to have to have roads anyways, as miners do need to eat, and there's a tone of other supplies involved as well.

Re:must we endure.. (2)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#44801971)

I don't think you read the article. What I am talking about is what it says.

They want to move remote or oversized cargo. They can become heavier than air and the airship is shaped as an obvious lifting body.

Re:must we endure.. (1)

hedwards (940851) | about a year ago | (#44803037)

You obviously haven't worked in areas where you can't build roads. The reality is that most of those areas aren't typically suitable for airships either. You've got steep hills and deep canyons. And something the shape and size of an airship is going to be a logistical nightmare to use in a situation like that. Even up north in the Arctic there are serious problems as well.

Yes, the maneuverability is better than in the past, but it's not that good. And most of the best mining ground in the world is in areas where ships like this just don't work. Even if they can convert into heavier than air for periods, trying to fly something with that much surface area in a place like the Andes is a logistical nightmare.

So, they might claim that this is reasonable, but between the limited cargo capacity per volume of ship and the terrain they're talking about, I wouldn't expect this to happen in the next few decades or ever. This sounds like city boy talk about how easy it's going to be for them to get into an area where the locals haven't been able to. And it rarely works out well, otherwise the locals would already have been doing it.

Re:must we endure.. (1)

cusco (717999) | about a year ago | (#44803515)

The Andes are pretty much out of the question, even in those areas where helicopters can't operate adequately because of the altitude. Winds are utterly unpredictable and frequently outrageous (especially in August). I've seen a 'vientarron' rip a chunk of corrugated roofing off a house, toss it a couple hundred feet in the air, and drop it half a mile away. There is no way that an airship of any type could survive something like that, especially in an area where valleys are often only a kilometer or less wide at their bottom (where the resources generally are). It might work in the open Amazon jungle, but not anywhere higher than Quillabamba (and that's a stretch).

Re:must we endure.. (4, Informative)

evilviper (135110) | about a year ago | (#44802185)

no, they can't be used as you describe.

In fact they can. They talk about this exact scenario at the very bottom of TFA...

These craft have severely limited capacity for cargo

Their absolute cargo capacity doesn't matter... It's a question of cost per kg of cargo. Since airships need to consume extremely little fuel, they are extremely economical to operate, and the cost of shipping heavy materials will be vastly less expensive than flying them on conventional airplanes.

What's more, you'd be far, far better off just getting a Chinook, as those are much smaller and are designed to handle a substantial amount of cargo.

That's absolute nonsense. A helicopter will consume MORE fuel than conventional airplanes, has less range, and moves more slowly, all for the convenience of VTOL. An airship will be VASTLY more economical to operate.

Anybody with a mine doing substantial volume is going to have to have roads anyways, as miners do need to eat, and there's a tone of other supplies involved as well.

The diamond and oil mines in the arctic are operating without roads... Instead they truck in supplies at great expense only part of the year, over the ice. The Alaska pipeline was perhaps the most expensive engineering project in history, and the investment nearly bankrupted the whole US oil industry. Until recently, the South Pole McMurdo station was operating without a road over the 1,000 mile distance, and it was an incredible expense to develop, only profitable because conventional aircraft are so expensive to operate that it cost double the jet fuel for a given cargo weight to fly in supplies.

In short, there are MANY places that don't or perhaps CAN'T have roads, yet are profitable locations that need lots of bulk freight deliveries. Pretty much everything you've said in your comment is undeniably factually incorrect, and if these airships prove reliable, they may have a few incredibly profitable routes.

Re:must we endure.. (0)

hedwards (940851) | about a year ago | (#44802977)

I disagree, I may not be the ultimate authority on all things mining, but I did used to work in the back country. And, this technology isn't going to be of any use in areas where you genuinely can't build roads. One summer, I was physically carrying gear up a steep mountain because there wasn't any way of getting a helicopter in, and the trail wasn't big enough for pack animals. The area itself used to be popular for copper mining and quite profitable back in the early 20th century.

What's more, when you're dealing with a mining operation that's large enough to even consider something like this, you're talking tons of materials going in and out over the course of a season. The dump trucks alone can be the size of a house, and weigh many tons.

In the arctic, you have plenty of room, but ultimately, the technology they're talking about is many years away from being able to handle that kind of weather, and you'd have to have a huge fleet of these ships to make that even plausible.

So, it's not undeniable, it's only undeniable if you don't know crap about mining or work in the back country. The bottom line here is that the claims in the article are overly sunny and largely designed to get people to invest in the project.

Don't get me wrong, I'd love to be proven wrong, but it wasn't just technology that kept this from being a reality in the past, it was the fact that airships just are not appropriate for this type of use. There wasn't even a sense that it was a direction to go on in the past.

Re:must we endure.. (1)

evilviper (135110) | about a year ago | (#44803315)

All your arguments are circular nonsense and fact-free... A large mining operation will be too large for these? And a small mining operation will be too small for these?

So, it's not undeniable, it's only undeniable if you don't know crap about mining or work in the back country.

It's undeniable airships have FAR lower operating costs per mass of cargo than conventional aircraft, and your suggestion of Chinook helicopters is positively laughable. Airships certainly CAN do many things you baselessly claim they CAN'T.

Re:must we endure.. (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year ago | (#44803589)

One summer, I was physically carrying gear up a steep mountain because there wasn't any way of getting a helicopter in, and the trail wasn't big enough for pack animals.

I don't understand. You are saying that a helicopter couldn't get there, or they didn't want to pay for it? I've seen helicopters work around a variety of steep mountains, and they do quite well, so long as your final site is visible to the sky (lowering things on a 100 ft cable, released from the helicopter when touched down is not impossible). But I've not seen anywhere actually "not accessible", except for caves and such.

Re:must we endure.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44802455)

hedwards, you're REALLY making a fool of yourself today. YOU don't understand how THIS lighter than air craft works because YOU DIDN'T RTFA. They are heavier than air while sitting on the ground (the explanation is in TFA) aned is indeed made for transpotring very heavy equipment to where IT'S IMPOSSIBLE TO BUILD ROADS.

Dude, mcgrew here (cant log in yet) and I usually respect your posts, but you're really going to facepalm if you actually do RTFA. This vehicle is nothing like anything anyone ever built before, and it's a fascinating read.

Remember what Twain said: those who don't read have no advantage over those who can't read. Do yourself a favor and read the thing, but after you do you will be embarrassed by all the ignorant comments you've made.

Re:must we endure.. (1)

hedwards (940851) | about a year ago | (#44802895)

You're certainly entitled to your opinion, but there's a reason why this technology was never used for this purpose back in the '30s. What's more, it was never proposed for this purpose.

I'm familiar with how the vessel operates, it's just questionable if it's going to have any practical application like this. The amount of supplies that mining crews need is huge, take a look at the vehicles they're using. They're both immensely heavy, as well as huge. The dumptrucks that the larger mines are using are literally larger than a house.

The reality here is that these vehicles have limited use as they're both light on their cargo capacity in terms of mass as well as in terms of volume. And yes, they do maneuver better than the ones in the past, but they're still not going to be useful in the way that the GGP was talking about.

Re:must we endure.. (2)

CreatureComfort (741652) | about a year ago | (#44803139)

Chinook, maximum 13 tons of useful cargo capacity.

Aeroscraft, maximum useful cargo capacity 66 tons.

Your argument, is invalid.

Re:must we endure.. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44801883)

The fine article says that they're intended for places that need heavy cargo delivery but lack infrastructure, such as Alaska and Northern Canada where there's plenty of valuable minerals and damned few ways to efficiently ship supplies in and the raw materials back out. It's aimed at cargo transport to/from places that other forms of air travel are too impractical for, not really for replacing existing air travel.

Re:must we endure.. (1)

kermidge (2221646) | about a year ago | (#44802315)

Bingo. As for bringing raw materials back, I have to wonder - if the Aeroscraft can take in machinery for extraction of a resource, if it's one that can be readily pre-processed by straightforward mechanical or chemical means perhaps that could be done on site as well. I suppose the airship could be used for many 'outback' construction needs besides mineral extraction sites also - remote weather stations come to mind.

Existing heavy-lift helicopters such as the later Chinooks and S-64 are range-limited to several hundred miles, last I looked. I don't know if either one can be refueled in flight.

I've been following Pasternak's project with great interest since he started it and hope everything pans out.

Re:must we endure.. (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#44802387)

Even if you can refuel the chinook in flight, helicopters burn fuel like that is their job. Not a cheap way to move cargo.

Re:must we endure.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44802163)

The Use-case for the Aeroscraft, is hauling bulk freight to planes with little to no infrastructure.

It has VTOL capability, the ability to hover on station, and even a hover-skirt allowing water landings. All while being more fuel efficient than a heavier than air craft with the same capacity.

Lol aerostat (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44801737)

Mortal Kombat...

Aerostat vs. Drone.

Round 1.

FIGHT!

Wonder when the first mid-air collision will be? My brother's in ATC and had some hilarious stuff to say about a collision in Florida a couple of years back. He he.

Re:Lol aerostat (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44801795)

Wonder when the first mid-air collision will be? My brother's in ATC and had some hilarious stuff to say about a collision...He he.

Oh ho ho that musta been funny! Oh maaaan, those mid-air collisions are friekin' hilarious! Balls of flames! People dying! Could be babies on that flight! Just imagine if it happened over a populated area! Headline: Flaming babies fell from the sky landed on my foot! Oh maan that's KILLING ME! Get it, killing me? *wipes tears from eyes* lol!

Remind me not to go into air traffic control if it makes mass death seem funny.

Mod parent DOWN! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44801903)

Your sarcasm is unwanted here. GP made a pretty good point. No need to mock.

Re:Mod parent DOWN! (2)

HeckRuler (1369601) | about a year ago | (#44802441)

Is everyone off their meds?

1) No the GP didn't make a particularly good point. It amounts to "oh noes, multiple things in the air! Oh the collisions!". And he throws in "drones" in there for some reason. It might have been a vaguely good point if he actually mentioned what his brother has said at the supposed collision between an airship and a drone, but decided to simply chuckle as his own unspoken joke instead.

2) Correct, the sarcasm is unwanted, and more importantly unwarranted, as there would be no "balls of flames". Specifically because the Aeroscraft (which is a horrible fucking name btw, it's like they let an 's' crawl out from their southern drawl mid sentence) is filled with helium, not hydrogen, and drones are typically smaller. And they don't currently carry babies. so wtf?

Given that they have things that take off vertically, and things that take off horizontally, I don't imagine it's all that crazy of an idea that airports could service airships as well.

Re:Lol aerostat (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44802295)

Headline: Flaming babies fell from the sky landed on my foot! Oh maan that's KILLING ME! Get it, killing me?

Wow, thats really ensensitive. Could you tone it down a little?

The same fate as ships (1)

intermodal (534361) | about a year ago | (#44801743)

Unfortunately, I think that the days of glamourous airship travel are gone. Cargo will probably find a niche, but passenger flights will be either nonexistent or close to it. We might some cruise-type flights over majestic terrain, but the true awesomeness of the Zeppelins was the ability to travel in luxury while taking in views the passengers never imagined.

Re:The same fate as ships (1)

operagost (62405) | about a year ago | (#44801867)

Cruise ships were still pretty popular until the major carriers decided to stop maintaining their vessels and leave their passengers stranded in the Atlantic, waist-deep in sewage.

Re:The same fate as ships (1)

intermodal (534361) | about a year ago | (#44801923)

It's true. But even in those circumstances, they wouldn't have been able to get rolling from a lack of existing market.

Re:The same fate as ships (1)

Longjmp (632577) | about a year ago | (#44802781)

There was already a company trying to fill the "niche", Cargolifter [wikipedia.org] .
They failed miserably because of underestimating the complexity and technical problems.

I'm highly skeptical but nonetheless interested how Airoscraft will perform.

Re:The same fate as ships (1)

intermodal (534361) | about a year ago | (#44802959)

Agreed. I think the real test will not be the feasibility of the concept, but rather whether they can manage their finances long enough to get rolling and find a price that brings customers at a profit and allows the company to grow.

Re:The same fate as ships (1)

tsotha (720379) | about a year ago | (#44803587)

Well, that was part of the awesomeness. The other part was their use predates practical intercontinental travel by airplane. If you wanted to travel from Germany to Brazil or the US in 1930 the fastest way to go was on the Graf Zeppelin.

But the thrust of you comment is probably accurate. Airships travel at most about 25% of passenger jet speeds. Even assuming you can find people who are willing to spend four times as long getting to their destination, the real killer from a business standpoint is you have to have four times as many filled seats to get the same ticket revenue. The only way this is going to happen is if airships become significantly cheaper to operate. That's not impossible, but it's going to require significant increases in fuel costs as well as a much higher volume production of airships.

Nice... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44801761)

I look forward to the next Hindenburg disaster. It's a good thing that we not only don't learn from history, but we seek to repeat the same mistakes over and over again.

Re:Nice... (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#44801813)

Have fun waiting, they are using He not H.

Re:Nice... (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about a year ago | (#44802027)

Oh, I Se.

Re:Nice... (3, Informative)

Punko (784684) | about a year ago | (#44801831)

So, you've discounted the fact that we won't be using a flammable substance for the ship's skin, and we won't be using a flammable gas for lift ? Helium doesn't burn/explode, and neither does the intended skin.

Those that dies in the Hindenburg were burned by diesel fuel spilled when the skin and lifting gas ignited. So on the whole, I'd say we have learned from History in this case. Of course, we still drive to work knowing that this is the least safe commuting option.

Re:Nice... (4, Interesting)

sjames (1099) | about a year ago | (#44802273)

Interestingly, we now accept air disasters every few years that cause more death and destruction than the Hindenburg without a single call to ground the dangerous jetliners.

Re:Nice... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44802519)

Also interestingly, the Hindenburg made 62 safe flights before it exploded (some flights lasted longer than 100 hours).

The absolute number of crashes is not relevant, it's the crash rate.

If commercial airlines had a 1 in 63 chance of crashing and killing all/most onboard, people would be screaming at the tops of their lungs as we watched 1 jetliner crash every hour at each of the busy airports in the world. Other than the Asiana crash earlier this year, it's been years since an airline crash in the USA (US airlines are a notch safer than foreign). Over 90000 commercial flights occur every single day and it's now extremely rare for one to crash.

Re:Nice... (1)

sjames (1099) | about a year ago | (#44802673)

So who is to say that every 63rd flight would have done that? Especially with new precautions in place. Even if the odds were literally one in a trillion it could happen on the 1st flight or the trillionth or anywhere in between (it could even go 12 trillion then have two disasters in a row).

Keep in mind too that at that time, the accident rate for general aviation was more than 10 times what it is now. Other forms of travel were also less safe than now.

Re:Nice... (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year ago | (#44803105)

Fuel a jetliner with automotive diesel and you'll probably ramp the crash rate way up, assuming they can even get off the ground - they just aren't designed to use that blend of fuel. Similar issue with the Hindenburg - it was designed to use non-flammable helium as the lift gas, and as such had minimal protection against fire incorporated into it's design. Obviously the fact that they then chose to operate it with much cheaper hydrogen lift gas eventually became a problem.

Re:Nice... (1)

varmfskii (2910763) | about a year ago | (#44803727)

Chose? The U.S. embargoed sales of helium to Nazi Germany, their choices were either use hydrogen, or not have the airships.

Re:Nice... (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year ago | (#44803807)

Which caused the price of helium to increase, leading them to choose to use hydrogen instead. The US was hardly the only source of helium.

> their choices were either use hydrogen, or not have the airships. ...or use airships designed to use hydrogen as a lift-gas. Such airships were not uncommon at the time, just more expensive. They could probably even have retrofitted the Hindenburg to use hydrogen relatively safely had they chosen, though it might have involved replacing the flammable skin at not inconsiderable expense.

Statistics don't work that way (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year ago | (#44803953)

Statistics don't work that way. It is irrelevant to the crash rate how many flights a particular airship made before it crashed - a one-in-a-million outcome is just as likely to occur on the first test as on the millionth. To find the actual crash rate you would have to look at the total number of Hindenburg-style airship flights and divide the number of crashes by the total number flights. You'd need to have a statistically valid number of airships in action to confirm that it was a design flaw and not a manufacturing defect or operator error.

Consider the Titanic - the fact that it sank on it's maiden voyage doesn't mean there was any great flaw in the ship itself.

Re:Nice... (1)

SirGarlon (845873) | about a year ago | (#44801877)

It's a good thing that we not only don't learn from history, but we seek to repeat the same mistakes over and over again.

You mean, mistakes such as posting without having read the fucking article?

Re:Nice... (1)

couchslug (175151) | about a year ago | (#44803655)

Kill yourself for not knowing that modern airships use helium or even bothering to check. That's basic historic and aviation knowledge.

Slashdot is at least theoretically a tech site.

Windmills do not work that way, Human! (3, Informative)

pla (258480) | about a year ago | (#44801785)

"The Aeroscraft airship can compress a certain amount of its lifting gas and put it into fabric tanks, under pressure. The density of the compressed gas is higher so that it is no longer lighter than air, and therefore this airship, unlike any of its predecessors, can change its buoyancy."

Uhh... That works with submarines because they actually do change their mass-inside-the-hull (and therefore their density) by taking in or dumping out water from the environment around them. With a rigid frame containing just helium, it doesn't matter whether you store the helium in a tank or in the balloon, you have the same total mass inside the footprint of the hull, and therefore the same overall density (for reference, a balloon "containing" a vacuum would have more buoyancy than even one using Hydrogen).

Not to say they couldn't have found a solution to that particular problem, but the explanation given... Doesn't solve that problem.

Re:Windmills do not work that way, Human! (5, Informative)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#44801857)

They compress the helium into fabric bags, then this makes the some of the gas cells/bags inside the rigid frame deflate, that deflated volume is replaced with air. Then when you need to become lighter you allow the Helium to go back into the gas cell/bag and thus the bag inflates pushing the air out of the craft.

If they could do what you are suspecting is going on they would have no need for helium. They could just have a big rigid bag of vacuum.

Re:Windmills do not work that way, Human! (4, Funny)

wcrowe (94389) | about a year ago | (#44802331)

They could just have a big rigid bag of vacuum.

What if their vacuum is bagless?

Sorry, I couldn't help it.

Re:Windmills do not work that way, Human! (1)

frovingslosh (582462) | about a year ago | (#44802765)

That was my thought too. They claim "A rigid airship has a stiff outer frame that maintains its aerodynamic shape regardless of the amount of helium inside the ship.". But there must be some sort of internal bladder system that they are leaving out of the description. Very poor article though without that key piece of information clearly stated.

Re:Windmills do not work that way, Human! (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year ago | (#44803155)

I believe internal gas bladders within the outer skin is a standard feature of all dirigibles - that's the only way you can vary the density/buoyancy to change altitude without changing the shape of the rigid airframe that defines a dirigible. Without the rigid airframe you have a blimp, not a dirigible.

Re:Windmills do not work that way, Human! (1)

gweilo8888 (921799) | about a year ago | (#44803393)

Indeed. I'm lucky enough to have flown in one, and discussed the system with the pilot. They're used for trim and buoyancy both; inflate or deflate bladders to shift the helium forwards or backwards inside the envelope. Inflate both bladders to decrease buoyancy. Deflate both bladders to increase buoyancy. (And in addition, adjust quantity of sandbags in hatches underneath the passenger cabin to get the craft approximately at neutral buoyancy before liftoff.)

I'm failing to see what's unique here, tbh.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skyship_600 [wikipedia.org]

Re:Windmills do not work that way, Human! (3, Interesting)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year ago | (#44803753)

I think the new part is partially that the gas is re-compressed rather than vented in order to reduce buoyancy, and mostly that it's designed with vectored-thrust engines that allow it to land and take of while heavier-than-air, drastically increasing stability and safety - I believe the majority of historical airship accidents are involved with those narrow, high-risk operating windows.

Re:Windmills do not work that way, Human! (1)

fnj (64210) | about a year ago | (#44803967)

Correct. The issue that those of us who have familiarity in the field have with Aeros is how their design could possibly handle rapidly changing, gusty winds on landing and takeoff. Not necessarily violent winds. Very moderate winds which are changeable.

Re:Windmills do not work that way, Human! (1)

fnj (64210) | about a year ago | (#44803951)

I also flew in a blimp and talked to the pilot and other personnel; also studied the theory and technology at length. If you are talking about a blimp or a Zeppelin NT, you couldn't possibly be more wrong about decreasing or increasing buoyancy by using the ballonets (what you call "bladders"). That's not what they do at all. They have zero effect on overall static lift; none; nada. They are for fore-aft trim, as you say, but primarily they are to keep the pressure in the envelope constant as the helium expands and contracts due to altitude and temperature changes.

The static lift is controlled using the sandbags you mention. And only the sandbags.

Re:Windmills do not work that way, Human! (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | about a year ago | (#44802171)

That works with submarines because they actually do change their mass-inside-the-hull (and therefore their density) by taking in or dumping out water from the environment around them.

And it works here because they actually do change their mass-inside-the-hull (and therefore their density) by taking in or dumping out *air* from the environment around them.

Re:Windmills do not work that way, Human! (1)

Deadstick (535032) | about a year ago | (#44802769)

True, strictly speaking, but overcomplicated. The interior of the hull not occupied by gas cells is vented outside, so the volume of the hull is irrelevant. Only the volume of the sealed portion -- i.e., the gas cells and associated plumbing -- counts in determining the buoyancy. If the total weight of the ship divided by the sealed volume is less than the density of ambient air, the buoyancy will be positive.

Re:Windmills do not work that way, Human! (1)

CreatureComfort (741652) | about a year ago | (#44803171)

But the point to the rigid hull is to maintain favorable aerodynamic properties.

Especially in near-ground operations.

Re:Windmills do not work that way, Human! (1)

Deadstick (535032) | about a year ago | (#44803557)

The hull is rigid, but it's supported by structural members, not by internal gas pressure.

Re:Windmills do not work that way, Human! (1)

sjames (1099) | about a year ago | (#44802303)

It's not a rigid frame containing just helium. It's a rigid frame containing non-rigid gas cells that can expand or contract based on the amount of helium in them. Compress helium from the cells into a pressure tank and let (heavier) air enter the airframe to make up the volume.

Re:Windmills do not work that way, Human! (1)

Deadstick (535032) | about a year ago | (#44802721)

What pla said. A dirigible is not a gasbag. It has its lifting gas in many individual cells, and the outer envelope is vented to atmosphere; if you look around the Net, you can find pictures of Hindenburg crewmen walking around inside it on catwalks with the gas cells all around them.

Connect hoses to the cells, and you can compress gas from them into a rigid tank, whereupon the cells get smaller and the closed volume of the ship does likewise.

Megaloads (1)

SoupGuru (723634) | about a year ago | (#44801811)

The Spokane area is all aflutter with some "megaload" controversy about shipping some water treatment equipment to a mine in Canada over some "scenic" roads.

http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2013/aug/14/megaload-fight-headed-federal-court/ [spokesman.com]

Driving this stuff over mountain roads is apparently the only method of getting equipment of this size to the location where it's needed. I realize this is bigger than the airship is capable of lifting but I'd bet there are plenty of other situations where this would be a good option.

Re:Megaloads (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44802445)

perhaps they'll be able to work like those lift helicopters and they can use several of these airships for huge jobs, probably wouldn't work the same, ENGINEERS MAKE IT HAPPEN

Re:Megaloads (1)

alexander_686 (957440) | about a year ago | (#44802815)

Yes, engineers are great but they may have a different idea then yours.

I am thinking about Effile (of the tower) who designed a iron bridge that could be transported by camels. i.e. lots of small pieces that can be assembled into a whole.

ZEPPLINS!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44801817)

I also RTFA (ok, skimmed) and I like the mechanism they added to adjust buoyancy. (pressurizing some of the helium and storing it in high-pressure containers)
The prototype is too silver for my taste, but coat the top with solar panels and add a couple more active flight controls and it gets close to some of my "no-terrain RV" ideas.

What is it filled with? (1)

MobyDisk (75490) | about a year ago | (#44801851)

What do they fill it with? If it is rigid, then couldn't it be a vacuum since that would give the most buoyancy? Or perhaps an aerogel?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vacuum_airship [wikipedia.org]

Re:What is it filled with? (3, Funny)

pr0t0 (216378) | about a year ago | (#44801905)

Popcorn, obviously.

Re:What is it filled with? (2)

squiggleslash (241428) | about a year ago | (#44802079)

Helium, It's in TFA.

In terms of alternatives: I think the dangers of hydrogen have been overstated but I don't think there's much likelihood of anyone switching to that in the near future, and there's also its corrosive effects on iron to consider. Vacuums? Until someone can come up with a lightweight container that's able to withstand an atmosphere of air pressure (which is much more than you might think) it's not going to happen.

Re:What is it filled with? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44802209)

Helium, It's in TFA.

More importantly, it's also filled with air. That's how the ballasting system works. Compress helium and draw in air (there's a barrier to keep them from mixing).

Re:What is it filled with? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44802299)

Is a barrier really necessary? In any container, helium will always be on the top and air at the bottom.

Re:What is it filled with? (1)

squiggleslash (241428) | about a year ago | (#44802345)

That's not really how it works. Most of the helium will be at the top, and most of the air at the bottom, but they will mix. In any case, how do you suck out the air in this scenario? If you put oil and water in a glass and tried to draw out the water by sucking it out through a straw, there'd be that bit at the end where you'd almost certainly leave some water there, while sucking up oil.

Re:What is it filled with? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44802625)

You just use two balloons. One for air, one for helium.

Re:What is it filled with? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44803305)

Sounds like a barrier to me.

Re:What is it filled with? (1)

sjames (1099) | about a year ago | (#44802313)

Birds! When they need to descend, they sprinkle birdseed on the floor, when they need to ascend, someone shoos the birds.

oblig Hindenburg (0)

stevegee58 (1179505) | about a year ago | (#44801855)

Oh, the humanity!

Reminds me of the good old days... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44801875)

When the United States would employ ships like the USS Macon and the USS Akron.

Ideal bad-terrain cargo carrier... (4, Interesting)

evilviper (135110) | about a year ago | (#44801989)

We have shows like Ice Road Truckers about dangerous, expensive, and time-limited freight delivery in the Artic circle because impassable terrain most of the year... And at the opposite end of the globe, the 1,000 mile-long McMurdo â" South Pole Highway constructed over 4 years at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars with lots of ongoing maintenance... And also consider the manifold poor remote villages that are often starving and suffering after natural disasters because they are accessible only by foot (or mule) due to mountainous terrain over which road construction would be astronomically expensive...

All these scenarios, because flying-in heavy items via conventional aircraft over long distance can consume twice their weight in jet fuel.

Airships can no-doubt fundamentally change the arithmetic of delivering supplies to these hazardous and remote locations. If these airships prove to be reliable heavy-lifters, that consume far, far less fuel, they could generate a LOT of cash from carrying cargo to such difficult destinations, no matter how slow they are to arrive at their destinations.

deal bad-terrain yes, bad weather no. (2)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | about a year ago | (#44802141)

Yes to bad-terrain; no to bad weather.

The real killer to the age of the Zeppelin wasn't the Hindenberg; it was the continuing series of crashes of airships due to bad weather.

Zeppelins are fair-weather flyers.

(with that said, however, with modern weather satellites and predictions, this would be much less of a problem than it was in the 1930s)

Re:deal bad-terrain yes, bad weather no. (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#44802427)

They hope to use their ability to manage their buoyancy to fix that. Also the fact that this craft is designed as a lifting body. So it could if need be in theory become heavier than air and glide to the ground in poor weather.

Re:deal bad-terrain yes, bad weather no. (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | about a year ago | (#44802467)

Yes to bad-terrain; no to bad weather.

The real killer to the age of the Zeppelin wasn't the Hindenberg; it was the continuing series of crashes of airships due to bad weather.

Zeppelins are fair-weather flyers.

(with that said, however, with modern weather satellites and predictions, this would be much less of a problem than it was in the 1930s)

Hmmm. I suspect the advent of more reliable fixed wing a/c took the air out (or in, actually) of Zepplin travel as well. I wonder if this new airship will have a high enough service ceiling to avoid a lot of the weather. BTW. Does NOVAAR and ECRM ring a bell?

Re:deal bad-terrain yes, bad weather no. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44803529)

You are correct about the weather problem, but incorrect in suggesting that satellites and computer based weather prediction will do much to fix it.

Airships have been repeatedly announced and failed to achieve commercial reality, over and over again. This time is no different. An airship is essentially a giant aerodynamic sail. The power to surface area of the vehicle will not allow these airships to fly safely and reliably. Goodyear blimp or no.

Heavier than air aircraft have a hugely more advantageous power to surface area ratio. As a result they can fly in almost any weather and not kill or endanger the passengers and cargo.

Airships are the province of dreamers and romantics. No matter what they say, or what we say, they will continue to unsucessfully throw themselves at this problem. Therefore for anyone not interested in the dreaming and romance, the safe thing to do is isolate and distance ourselves from them.

Re:Ideal bad-terrain cargo carrier... (2)

DerekLyons (302214) | about a year ago | (#44802339)

Airships can no-doubt fundamentally change the arithmetic of delivering supplies to these hazardous and remote locations. If these airships prove to be reliable heavy-lifters

The problem, well known historically but seemingly needing to be rediscovered every twenty years or so, is that airships aren't reliable heavy lifters. They're extraordinarily sensitive to the weather - much more so than any means of transport they replace. Absent heavy and complex propulsion systems (above and beyond that what's needed to travel from point A to point B) or significant ground infrastructure, they can't reliably deliver their cargo to a precise given point. etc... etc... (Worse yet, both of these fundamental problems get worse as the size of the airship approaches any useful cargo capacity.) This scheme doesn't solve the first problem, and probably won't solve the second.

Re:Ideal bad-terrain cargo carrier... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44802655)

The usefulness of any aircraft is contained in its performance specs as determined during FAA certification, and they haven't been determined for this craft. Moreover, there's no discussion of design specs, either. Until you know how an aircraft performs you don't know its limitations and you can't calculate cost/benefit for its use in any particular circumstance. The only thing you can do is speculate. This is just a PR piece to make sure the $35 million R&D cost generates some buss, at least.

The mention of Africa, N. Canada and Alaska is telling. It's not too difficult to speculate on where and for what purpose this type of craft might be desirable in these areas as of the world. The oil and gas industry needs to lift and deliver lots of heavy stuff for drilling and pipelines, and the construction sites change routinely. This makes the construction of roads or rails uneconomical. All these places have significant environmental factors which make lighter than air carriers desirable. Snow, ice, tundra and melting swamps and bogs limit trucking to a seasonal activity at high latitudes. In Africa the distances are greater and you may have to deal with shifting sand dunes.

But high winds limit big airships like this. The Good Year blimp had a top speed of about 32 knots (35 mph), so wind speed and direction are critical factors in calculating the economics of their use. And I wonder how they'll deal with the added weight of the surface to air missile counter-measure systems they'll need to operate in Libya or Mali.

Archer! (1)

mattfoo (773941) | about a year ago | (#44802149)

Hmm, life to imitate art? http://archer.wikia.com/wiki/Skytanic [wikia.com]

-Matt

Re:Archer! (1)

RenderSeven (938535) | about a year ago | (#44802833)

'M' as in 'Mancy' ha ha possibly the best TV episode in all of TV!

Repeat after me (1)

HeckRuler (1369601) | about a year ago | (#44802293)

SKY TRUCKERS!!!

Where? (1)

ebob (220513) | about a year ago | (#44802425)

From the company's About page:

Aeros occupies a corporate office in Los Angeles, CA., as well as a historic 500,000 square –foot assembly flight test facility hangar in Tustin, CA.

Yeah, I guess that's near Sand Diego

Not 70-year Absence (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44802497)

This company is gone, but hardly a 70-year absence of airships over California.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Airship_Ventures

Eroscraft (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44802659)

A great way to join the mile-high club

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