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Author Topic: Airships in the Future  (Read 7418 times)
Interstellar Machine
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« on: March 02, 2007, 05:44:03 pm »

Recently I have stumbled across some websites for companies that propose using new technologies to reinstate widespread use of airships. The most impressive to me was the AerosCraft. The first of these airships is due for completion in 2010 (only about 3 years), and has drawn the interest of cruise lines, freight companies, and the military. The Aeroscraft is not a blimp or a true dirigible in that it is not lighter then air, however, it utilizes that concept by using 14 million cubic feet of helium to cancel out 60% its magnanimous weight. The remaining weight is overcome by vertical lift fans and its lifting body (a concept where the body of the aircraft itself acts as a wing). The Aeroscraft features vertical takeoff and landing, no need for a ground crew, speeds up to 175 mph (NY to LA in 18 hours), ability to land on the water, and a carrying capacity of 20 truckloads. The inside of the craft can be equipped with anything from luxurious staterooms to warehouse style cargo spaces. The vision for this craft is to be able to directly supply a Wal-Mart, quickly land troops in sensitive areas, bring back commuter flying between adjacent cities, and supply hard to reach facilities including offshore oil rigs. Advancements since the 1930's have allowed technology to finally catch up with the vision for airships.

http://aeroscraft.com/


I found some concept pics of another proposal here:

http://www.airship.org/
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fixed_expression
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« Reply #1 on: March 02, 2007, 06:15:12 pm »

This looks amazing; the vertical airship particularly is fantastic. I'd love to see those floating around the place on a daily basis. I'd much rather travel that way as well; an international flight could take a few days I guess, but an aircraft where you could walk around, go to sleep etc would be worth the sacrifice of time for me. It'd be like the old days, when you had to take a boat to America or Australia, and needed to put aside a week for travelling.

On airship.org it said it was a zero emissions aircraft which, for me, would be a huge reason to implement these. On the other link I couldn't find any information about that, though...maybe I missed it, but they said it also used motors, which obviously suggests fuel consumption. I can see the benefit in a vertical take off aircraft that can transport large amounts of goods and people, but airships would naturally be much slower than jets; if they're significantly slower than current methods of transport whilst still burning fuel, I'm not sure if I can see them becoming a huge success.
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« Reply #2 on: March 02, 2007, 06:50:10 pm »

I have thought for a while that airships are the future. We are now at or past Peak Oil and the days of easy travel by airplane are drawing to an end. They may even help prevent the collapse of civilisation - we aren't going to be able to fly in strawberrys from around the world but cargo and passengers will still be able to travel long distances).

The solution is vacuum bullet trains (at some vast cost per kilometre) and/or airships. The latter have all sorts of benefits (as mentioned) and solar cell technology has reached a point where they are lfexible enough to be used to construct the balloon (the US military are talking about solar-powered spy blimps that never land or need refueling. The Israelis were said to be working on a 200 metre long dirigible to maintain a geostationary orbit 21 kilometres up) which should mean their fuel costs are minimal. Electrotextiles:

www.flexcell.ch
www.textileworld.com/News.htm?CD=1294&ID=3416

A 3 day trip from London to New York wouldn't be so bad if suitably opulent (better than the week or so by boat).

I do like the idea of vertical airships. That is a great find Smiley

There is some suggestions that a number of UFO sightings are actually secret blimps being tested.
www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/07/07/eveningnews/main628088.shtml
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« Reply #3 on: March 02, 2007, 07:08:02 pm »

I have always thought that improvements in solar collectors,(i.e. flexible panels, solar cloth) and battery technology could significantly increase the feasibility, practicality, and profitability of airships.
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« Reply #4 on: March 02, 2007, 07:40:01 pm »

I'm with you! Somebody needs to think up a catchy chant.

Like I said, I'm definately in favour of these...and if you really could power the motors through solar panels built into the design of the craft, that would be...well...there's no other word for it; it'd be really, really cool.

The problem I see is not with the ships themselves but with people accepting them as an alternative; personally, as I said, I'd much rather spend a few days travelling to America in comfort than a few hours in severe discomfort, but would most other people? People these days love speed. And are people really going to be willing to give up having their specially imported strawberries in December? Eventually, I think, they'll have to, but by Jove they'll fight to the bitter end for those yuletide strawberries, you can count on that.
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Dr.zuzus
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« Reply #5 on: March 02, 2007, 08:03:08 pm »

This looks awsome, imagine, a nightclub in the sky... it would be so cool. imagine what you would see, sitting in the front cabin of a glass bubble, dangling effortlessly from the sky or falling asleep in a room in the clouds...
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teawithsteph
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« Reply #6 on: March 02, 2007, 10:28:10 pm »

But yuletide strawberries could be made even more possible with airships! Imagine large floating greenhouses where they use the sun's heat to gently grow the strawberries and ripen them enroute to their eventual destination. All while safely storing other cargo under the growing floor.
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« Reply #7 on: March 02, 2007, 10:42:12 pm »

The problem I see is not with the ships themselves but with people accepting them as an alternative; personally, as I said, I'd much rather spend a few days travelling to America in comfort than a few hours in severe discomfort, but would most other people? People these days love speed. And are people really going to be willing to give up having their specially imported strawberries in December? Eventually, I think, they'll have to, but by Jove they'll fight to the bitter end for those yuletide strawberries, you can count on that.

I agree but this will all happen sooner than we like to think. One flight from London to NY and back is currently virtually all of one person's carbon allowance. Once fuel prices start going up and heavier crabon taxes are levied long distance rapid airtravel will be a thing of the past.

Unless of course:

But yuletide strawberries could be made even more possible with airships! Imagine large floating greenhouses where they use the sun's heat to gently grow the strawberries and ripen them enroute to their eventual destination. All while safely storing other cargo under the growing floor.

Transparent airships acting as greenhouses? I'd get your patent in now.

You saw it first here Wink
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Tinkergirl
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« Reply #8 on: March 02, 2007, 10:49:47 pm »

There's the helium shortage to worry about though - does anyone have any ideas on making hydrogen lifing safer?
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Tel Janin
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« Reply #9 on: March 03, 2007, 08:44:58 am »

Make the explosion a feature of the craft. External combustion engine! Float up to a suitable height, get into an escape module and light'er up. Get yourself blown all the way across the Atlantic.
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OHebel Wring
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« Reply #10 on: March 04, 2007, 03:34:15 am »

As far as transportation is concerned, unless they can speed them up a bit, there is nothing there.

I think I remember reading something like the Hindenberg's top speed was maybe 25 - 50 mph and a slow commercial airliner is in the 400+ mph.

But that doesn't mean that you can't use them for transport of goods.  The US military was working all the way into the 90s on developing unmanned airship transport of equipment.

And the cruise-liners, of course, may have something here.  The good thing about Airships is that they are relatively easy to dock.  The cruise lines could use existing port facilities, reducing infrastructure costs.

I would take a cruise in one, totally.
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« Reply #11 on: March 04, 2007, 05:23:24 am »

I would take a cruise in one, totally.

There is lot of potential there - rather than going around the edge and seeing water and ports all the time you could do a cruise say from San Francisco, over the Rockies and down the Grand Canyon. A tour across the Alps over even across Tibet to the Himalyas!!
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Josh of Vernian Process
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« Reply #12 on: March 04, 2007, 06:04:40 am »

I have dreamed of the return of Airship cruises for years. Keeping my fingers crossed in anticipation of it!
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« Reply #13 on: March 04, 2007, 01:08:08 pm »

unfortunately, the same article I was reading also discussed the current limitations to air-cruises being mountains.  There must be an air-pressure thing that puts a ceiling on how high these things can fly.  They specifically mentioned the Rockies as being limiters.

I will look for that article as now I have BADLY quoted it twice.
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S.Sprocket
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« Reply #14 on: March 29, 2007, 10:15:16 pm »

in terms of air pressure, it's not a ceiling to the craft, it's the air pressure in mountains and canyons creating winds which are a menace to navigation.  it's the same reason you can't fly a blimp through all the sky scrapers in Manhattan, you'd be blown into a building and crash.
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« Reply #15 on: March 29, 2007, 10:49:45 pm »

Which is why the blimp dock on the empire state building never was anything other than a grab for the tallest building record.

As I haven't read the artical I want to know a couple things:

Is it possible to create an envelope that has zero, or near zero, helium loss?

Can you coat the Envelope in solar cells to power some sort of electric moter for propulsion/battery to store power for the moters?
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« Reply #16 on: March 29, 2007, 11:09:26 pm »

Can you coat the Envelope in solar cells to power some sort of electric moter for propulsion/battery to store power for the moters?

Next generation solar cells will be the envelope.

I can't really answer you other question but I would imagine modern material technology has solved this.

If they are talking about creating high atmosphere "satellites" from solar powered blimps that need no refueling and only need to land for repairs then I suspect they have that angle boxed off.

I'll do more digging and keep an eye out.
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« Reply #17 on: March 30, 2007, 12:19:20 am »

actually I was referring to a way to supplement conventional power with something that has far less impact(even possibly no impact). I doubt unless you can get above the cloud layer its a practical solution for a primary power source, but its something that would be nice as it decreases use of fossil fuels down to zip(not sure how they create the helium so I dunno on that one).
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« Reply #18 on: March 30, 2007, 12:29:47 am »

actually I was referring to a way to supplement conventional power with something that has far less impact(even possibly no impact). I doubt unless you can get above the cloud layer its a practical solution for a primary power source, but its something that would be nice as it decreases use of fossil fuels down to zip(not sure how they create the helium so I dunno on that one).

But that is what they are talking about. Airships running purely on solar panels that are the fabric of the envelope.
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« Reply #19 on: March 31, 2007, 08:29:54 am »

I agree with the point that people are not going to adapt to Airships quickly. Not when speed is vital these days.

What is it now? 9 hours on a jetliner to cross America? 18 to go from America to London or Europe?

Who wants to go from that to a few days? Or a week?

And what about storms? How high can an airship go? The storms in the North Atlantic are horrendous.

I agree with the concept. If we haven't hit Peak Oil yet, we're about to and we need new transportation and new fuel sources. Would I like to see Airships in full use? Yes. But the engineering isn't there, and we as a society like speed too much to go back to slower forms of transport.

Not to mention, you're basically being held up by a giant silk hankerchief.
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« Reply #20 on: April 16, 2007, 02:14:45 am »

You're going to be at high altitude.

You want to make as much power as possible on board without burning anything.

It's windy outside at high altitudes.

External wind turbines to supplement the solar panels, maybe?
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« Reply #21 on: April 20, 2007, 03:52:59 pm »

I have thought for a while that airships are the future. We are now at or past Peak Oil and the days of easy travel by airplane are drawing to an end. They may even help prevent the collapse of civilisation - we aren't going to be able to fly in strawberrys from around the world but cargo and passengers will still be able to travel long distances).


Seems I'm not alone and it has a name. And yes it is Heliumpunk:

http://lurkingrhythmically.blogspot.com/2007/03/heliumpunk.html

One thing I'd overlooked was that successful fusion technology would create Helium as a waste product.
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« Reply #22 on: April 20, 2007, 04:21:38 pm »

I remember an article from a while back about using unmanned tethered airships to replace cell phone towers.

Ah, Found it!
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Obadiah Askew
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« Reply #23 on: April 29, 2007, 08:45:59 pm »

i'd have to agree with others that have commented on the difficulty of adapting to airships for travel, but i also agree on the prospects of airship cruises, shipping, greenhouses and the possibility of an airship hotel and/or "nightclub".

and the ability to use pre-existing airports for docking would help integrate airship use greatly and speed up the process.

-Obadiah Askew
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Copper Sulphate
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« Reply #24 on: April 30, 2007, 11:53:37 pm »

External wind turbines to supplement the solar panels, maybe?

This is unfortunately not a viable option. Even though the wind speed may be high relative to Terra Firma, the airship will move with the wind and thus the apparent wind speed will be zero. The exception being if the engines were running, propelling the craft against the wind, but then wind turbines would lower overall efficiency. You basically have to pour any power gained back into the engines to drive the craft, and then some to account for losses.

The fundamental problem with airships is ballast by the way. If you have a neutrally boyant craft at take-off, including the payload, you would need to replace the weight of the payload the instant the payload is detached from the cargo bay.

The artist's impression drawings, like where an airship is seen hovering over a disaster area while lowering a large fully assembled medical unit to the ground, are ridiculous. The moment the payload is removed, the airship will be positive boyant with a force equivalent to the weight just unloaded. The craft would instantly skyrocket with no way of recovering before it reached an altitude, where the low air pressure would cause the Helium bladders to burst. The End. [1]

This new type of airship may be a new option, but since it isn't neutrally boyant, it is just a large yet peculiarly shaped fixed wing aircraft. It needs a runway both on take-off and on landing, and it will crash if it runs out of fuel. No hovering with the payload, since it is the movement through the air - combined with the power from the engines - which accounts for much of the lift.

The ballast issue is what killed the airship as a commercial freight carrier, not the Hindenburg disaster or technological difficulties. I am actually surprised by just how far many freighter airship projects has gotten traction over time. Eventually they all died out again as people realized what the fundamental issue with airships as freight carriers is. New Zeppelin, CargoLifter, you name it.

C.S.

[1] Well, actually this isn't quite true. One could choose to dump Helium from the lift bladders in an amount to compensate for the weight just unloaded. But paying for several metric tonnes of Helium on each trip does seem like it might put a bit of an economic strain on the financial viability of the operation.
« Last Edit: May 01, 2007, 12:01:25 am by Copper Sulphate » Logged

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