Thursday, 5 August 2010

I want to fly in an Airship

It's no secret that I love neat gadget-y things. I've got a love affair with a hovercraft, and I've wound my own wind turbine stator. Basically, if it's geeky and new (or a new old thing) chances are I'll drool over it. This is the case for the hybrid Airships that the Telegraph wrote about. In a nutshell, they're half blimp, half helicopter, using much bigger turbofans for thrust vectoring and lift. Normally, planes use wings to generate aerodynamic lift, and control surfaces to modulate the direction of airflow. Thrust vectoring generates pressure on the craft itself, so the craft is moved by a stream of engine exhaust. Think of the Harrier when it vertically takes off, for a good idea of how this works.

The best part about airships is that they really rework the economics of heavy air-lift. Running a C-130 or anything of the like is expensive, and in rural situations, it's hard to take full advantage of a C-130 flight all at once. An airship would be comparably cheaper, and could make multiple stops on a circuit, meaning that no one stop would need to fill the cargo capacity. Additionally, air-barging fuel becomes slightly less insanely expensive, with the largest of the air ships being able to move upwards of 30,000 us gallons of heating fuel in a trip.

Of course, there are barriers to this technology making it to practical use. It feels like I've been promised heavy lift airships for 10 years now, and I haven't seen a single one. And that's just as long as I've been aware of them. The Article talks about proposals using these things in the Troubles, which extended from the late 60s to the early-mid 90s. They have been taking a long time about practically fielding airships...

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