Flying Saucers delivering people and provisions?
2010 10 03

From: Economist.com


Transporting large, clunky bits of equipment has always posed a challenge. Roads and railways do not reach everywhere, and even if they did, many cumbersome and heavy constructions need to be hauled in pieces, only to be put together at the final destination. Aeroplane cargo faces even tighter restrictions on shape and size, not to mention the need for runways. Heavy-transport helicopters, such as the Mil Mi-26 or Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane, address some of these difficulties, but their payloads are limited to 20 and nine tonnes, respectively, and the huge rotors create a powerful downdraft that makes handling that payload rather tricky. So people have long been looking for other ways round the problem. Now, Skylifter, an Australian aeronautical firm, thinks it has found the perfect solution.

The company is developing a piloted dirigible capable of carrying loads of up to 150 tonnes over distances as great as 2,000km (1,240 miles) at a speed of 45 knots (83kph). This would permit the craft to transport not just hefty components, but entire buildings, to remote areas. The company envisages modules ranging from rural hospitals and disaster-relief centres to luxury airborne cruise ships.


SkyLifter and assembly hangar Skylifter.com.au

Rather than use either a spherical or a cigar-shaped aerostat, as the gas-filled envelope of a lighter-than-air craft is known, Skylifter has developed a discus-shaped one. This means that like a traditional, round ballon—and unlike the elongated dirigible blimps that have hitherto been used as serious modes of commercial transport—the craft is “directionless”. In other words, it is oblivious of where the wind happens to be blowing from, which simplifies load-handling in places where the wind is fickle. At the same time, being flatter than a sphere, the aerostat acts less like a sail than a traditional balloon does, making it easier to steer. The flying-saucer shape also acts as a parachute, affording greater control during descent.



Video from: YouTube.com



Skylifter’s other innovation is to use devices called Voith-Schneider propellers instead of airscrews. A Voith-Schneider propeller is similar to a paddle wheel, but has hydrofoil-shaped blades instead of flat ones. Speeding up the propeller’s rotation increases its thrust, while shifting the blades’ angles changes the direction of the thrust. A Voith-Scheneider propeller thus provides power and steering at one and the same time. Skylifter plans to use several such drives to control the craft’s horizontal motion, and also to aid a buoyancy-control system within the envelope in moving the vehicle up and down.

Finally, by dangling the control pod well below the aerostat, the whole craft’s centre of gravity is shifted downward. This makes it less wonky, without the need for additional stabilisers—which bring extra weight.

The firm has already built a remote-controlled test version, named Betty, to demonstrate how the basic arrangement would work. Betty’s helium-filled aerostat, three metres across, is capable of carrying loads of a little over half a kilo—though for now her power comes from a standard airscrew fitted on a suspended control pod. The company has also scaled up the aerostat itself to the 18-metre-wide Vikki. This model, however, remains tethered to the ground at all times, as it has not been equipped with a propulsion system.

Skylifter’s engineers are now working on a 23-metre unmanned version dubbed Nikki. They plan to construct a full-sized 150-metre piloted prototype, Lucy, over the next three years. If that works, Skylifter craft may yet bring relief to stranded disaster victims—and also to jaded millionaires sick of ocean liners.


Article from: economist.com



Related Articles
Skylifter (site)
"UFO" at 2010 Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony
Stanton Friedman: UFO Propulsion Systems
Space Elevator Faces Reality


Latest News from our Front Page

Water rationing hits California: limit of 50 gallons per person per day or face fines of $500
2014 09 29
Millions of Californians are about to be hit with strict water rationing -- daily "allocation" numbers that represent the maximum amount of water you’re allowed to use for any purpose. Households that exceed the allocation limit will face stiff fines of hundreds of dollars per violation. "In July, the State Water Resources Control Board passed stage one emergency regulations, giving powers ...
Much of Earth’s Water is Older than the Sun
2014 09 29
Much of the water on Earth and elsewhere in the solar system likely predates the birth of the sun, a new study reports. The finding suggests that water is commonly incorporated into newly forming planets throughout the Milky Way galaxy and beyond, researchers said — good news for anyone hoping that Earth isn’t the only world to host life. “The implications of ...
Did the Vikings Get a Bum Rap?
2014 09 29
A Yale historian wants us to rethink the terrible tales about the Norse. This illustration shows the stereotype of Viking marauders wreaking mayhem, even on clergy. The scene depicts the monastery at Clonmacnoise, Ireland. The Vikings gave no quarter when they stormed the city of Nantes, in what is now western France, in June 843—not even to the monks barricaded in the ...
David Cameron Says Non-Violent Conspiracy Theorists Are Just As Dangerous As ISIS
2014 09 29
David Cameron told the U.N. that "non-violent extremism" is just as dangerous as terrorism and must be eradicated using all means at the government’s disposal. He references 9/11 and 7/7 Truthers as examples of the type of extremism that must be dealt in a similar fashion to ISIS. If you thought Obama’s War is Peace speech to the U.N. was creepy, ...
NY Times: Europe’s Anti-Semitism Comes Out of the Shadows
2014 09 28
NY Times Whines about European "Anti-Semitism" In the wake of the conflict in Gaza, three communities became flash points of violence and began contending with hatred they thought was buried in the past. Read the NY Times hit piece on Europe here Below is a rebuttal from Mike King’s The Anti-New York Times at tomatobubble.com: Strike up the violins and break out the barf ...
More News »