This is the Aeroscraft, a fully rigid airship that vastly differs from the MetLife and Goodyear blimps (both in size, features, and purpose). Typically with blimps, they do not have any internal structure and are only able to maintain their shapes through the pressure of the gas they contain. Whenever the gas escapes, blimps deflate just like the gigantic balloons that they typically are. The more rigid-style airships, such as zeppelins (maybe of the “Led” variety — I apologize), are able to maintain their shape regardless of gas pressure due to their internal skeleton structure.
While Aeros Corp could have gone the route of the Hindenburg — which utilized highly flammable balsa wood; and THAT’S why history is important, folks — but the Aeroscraft’s internal structure is made of aluminum and carbon fiber, while maintaining its buoyancy via a series of gas-filled bladders. However, unlike typical hybrid airships, the Aeroscraft doesn’t require forward momentum to generate lift via a set of wings; it depends on only helium power.
The Aeroscraft has been under development since 1996 by Aeros Corp, the world’s largest airship and blimp maker. The Aeroscraft project has received over $35 million in research and development funding and the federal government also lent the company some NASA goodies and resources to help develop the aerodynamics and control systems. The Aeroscraft has a proposed lifting capability of 66 tons without the need for a landing strip, as these airships should be able to deliver practically anything just about anywhere on the planet. After the successful launch of its half-scale prototype, the Pelican, it seems that the investment has paid off.
- The Aluminum Airship of the Future Has Finally Flown (mbtimetraveler.com)
- Aeroscraft – Mega Airship Back in the air in Tustin, California (defense-update.com)
- Aeros begins flight testing following FAA certification (gizmag.com)