WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
Airships can lift huge volumes of cargo at very low cost and while they’re slow, they’re also making a comeback.
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Airships that can lift huge amounts of cargo for next to nothing are starting to make a comeback, but rather than using Hydrogen which caused the famous Hindenberg to explode in the 1940’s they’re using Helium which, ironically, is a non-renewable resource due to run out by 2100. But that’s another story. Now, Russian airship manufacturer Airship Initiative Design Bureau Aerosmena (AIDBA), also known as Aerosmena, is aiming to launch a saucer-shaped, 600-ton payload airship in 2024.
Originally led by experienced Russian aircraft designer Orfey Kozlov, who sadly passed away due to COVID-19 last year, the firm’s cargo airship will be capable of carrying out loading and unloading operations on the field regardless of ground infrastructure. This means no need for ports, roadways, airports, or runways. It will even be able to hover over terrain and retrieve cargo using a pulley system.
“The transportation of goods using such [a design] is carried out according to a simple door-to-door scheme, which will help to [reduce] costs for logistics and warehouses,” said Aerosmena CEO Sergei Bendin.
Bendin also notes that the cost of a flight hour using the Aerosmena cargo ship would be “about an order magnitude lower than that of a transport aircraft.”
As for that UFO flying-saucer shape, Aerosmena says it will make the giant airship easier to manoeuvre and land in crosswinds than other airship projects that use a more traditional elongated hull shape.
It looks like a UFO but it’s
This efficient design would be key during cargo missions in areas and terrains that are difficult to reach for traditional aircraft. The airship could help to put out forest fires and deliver payloads to mountainous terrain.
The airship’s design also includes two gas chambers to provide lift. For the 600 ton model, 620,000 cubic meters of helium will be utilised for practically “zero” buoyancy. A large cavity filled with air heated to 200 degrees Celsius (392 Fahrenheit) by the exhaust of eight helicopter engines is hen responsible for lifting the payload.
Aerosmena plans to make different models with different capacities ranging from 20 to 600 tons and a range of up to 8,000 km (4,970 miles) reaching speeds of up to 250 km/h (155 mph).
Bendin says the firm aims to first build the 60-ton version of their airship, after which “an engineering assessment of [its] flight performance will be carried out in order to [then] create air platforms with a carrying capacity of 200 and 600 tons.”
Bendin added that a future passenger version would even be capable of “round-the-world travel in luxury flying hotel conditions.”
If all goes well, giant saucer-shaped cargo ships could soon be seen riding the winds over large cities. Especially considering Aerosmena isn’t the only company working on giant airships. For example, Google co-founder Sergey Brin’s airship company LTA is developing its own enormous model.
The Aerosmena project might sound like it’s overstretching on the promises a little, but maybe someday maybe we’ll all be vacationing across the globe in UFO like airships … or not. But the thought’s there.