The massive blimp-like aircraft flies but just barely, hovering only a dozen feet off a military hangar floor during flight testing south of Los Angeles.
Having had a long love affair with blimp like aircraft there are a number of intersting developments in using robotic blimp like vehicles for automated delivery. Worldwide Aeros has demonstrated a new aircraft concept with funding from US govt. the company is now looking to secure follow on funding for the next round of flight testing. The company says the cargo airship's potential to carry more cargo more efficiently than ever before would provide the U.S. military with an advantage on the battlefield and greater capacity to save more lives during natural disasters. The lighter-than-air vehicle is not a blimp or a zeppelin because it has a rigid structure made out of ultra-light carbon fiber and aluminum underneath its high-tech Mylar skin. Inside, balloons hold the helium that give the vehicle lift. The airship functions like a submarine, releasing air to rise and taking in air to descend and can take off vertically, like a helicopter, then change its buoyancy to become heavier than air for landing and unloading. Worldwide Aeros are following a similar path to the UK based
Hybrid Air Vehicles Limited who are developing similar solutions for European markets. It will be a matter of time for someone to get the business model and system economics in place to make these viable but as costs of components, robotics control systems combined with navigation technologies its increasingly a matter of when not if. Click on the image or title to learn more.