Aerostats Could Make Heavy Cargo Fly
Worldwide Aeros’s Aeroscraft cargo-carrying airship could change the way transport logistics have traditionally been done with airplanes, trains, ships, trucks and other vehicles. According to Worldwide Aeros (Hall 6 B30) CEO and chief engineer Igor Pasternak, two versions of the Aeroscraft will be available, one offering a 66-ton payload and a larger version with a 250-ton payload. The U.S Department of Defense (DOD) has invested more than $60 million in the Aeroscraft airship over the past seven years. The company will build an initial fleet of 24 airships, the majority of which will be higher-capacity models. The first vehicle will be operational in about three years, with all 24 airships in service by 2021, he said.
Pasternak, who has been involved for the past 20 years in airship design and manufacturing, including many FAA-certified products, said the Aeroscraft “rigid variable buoyancy air vehicle” will be a game changer, despite the challenges involved in designing and manufacturing a modern airship. What makes the Aeroscraft different from other airships is its ability to take off and land vertically without external ballast exchange. “The Aeroscraft is able to compress inert helium for in-flight ballasting using a patent-pending control of static heaviness (COSH) buoyancy management system,” according to the company. The ability to control ballasting dynamically makes flying the Aeroscraft simpler, with no need for additional ground infrastructure such as runways or airports and no need for ground crew support. And payloads can be unloaded without having to reballast.
“The uniqueness is that its limit is the weight of the payload, not volume,” said Pasternak. The Aeroscraft ML866 is 120 feet high, 177 feet wide and 555 feet long, and with a 3,100-nm range, it can cruise at up to 100 knots. Cargo is carried inside a bay. In the ML866, which has a 66-ton payload, the bay measures 220 by 40 by 30 feet. The much larger 250-ton-payload ML868 has a bay that is 380 by 61 by 45 feet. First float of the ML866 took place in January at Worldwide Aeros’s facility in Montebello, California.
Civil applications for the Aeroscraft are many, from using the airship to carry large blades of wind turbines to remote areas, transporting materials to build roads, offshore oil rigs and powerplants, disaster management logistics and moving other large loads such as aircraft without disassembly.
With the U.S. DOD Mobility Command one of the biggest users of fuel, there is an increasing need to manage the cost of transport logistics. The cargo-carrying Aeroscraft will reduce the cost of transportation fuel by one-third, Worldwide Aeros claims. “Billions of dollars worth of equipment were left in the desert in the past and never brought back [because of logistics issues],” said Pasternak, and he intends that his Aeroscraft will change all that.