Gallery: Amazing Aeros Pelican Airships Set to Fly by 2013

 

If you think the idea of airships is full of hot air, you may be in for a surprise as the newest Aeros zeppelin might be coming to a sky near you in 2013. In an effort to reduce fuel and helium usage on airships and blimps, the company, headed by Igor Pasternak, is testing  a project called Pelican.  Currently, maintaining buoyancy is the problem facing these airships, as they are controlled by burning an exorbitant amount of fuel to do so. The Pelican project claims to use compression to control the gas, and thus control buoyancy more effectively and efficiently.

To offset weight, airships (blimps) use  fuel that is lighter than air- usually helium, counterbalanced with cargo or weight to maintain control. The ship’s weight is reduced as fuel burns, creating an imbalance, and sending the ship further into the atmosphere. To stay at a cruising level, the ship must then release expensive helium/fuel into the atmosphere. Therein lies the problem- continuous wasted fuel, just to maintain altitude.

Rather than wasting precious helium, Aeros has created a compression system, called Control of Static Heaviness, or COSH. The ships are built with a rigid airframe surrounded by a membrane. Within the membrane are pressurized helium tanks, which can vary weight by turning the pressure up or down to make them heavier or lighter.

Should this work, the pressurized tanks could diminish the need for the excess fuel that is burned to change a ship’s weight at variant intervals. Aeros’ Pelican ship, a 230 foot long, 600,000 cubic foot vehicle, will be tested with this pressurized COSH system in 2012-2013. Funded by the Pentagon’s Rapid Reaction Technology Office, the project c is likely to be used in the military.

+ Aeros

Via Engadget

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5 Comments

  1. smcc44 May 20, 2012 at 9:27 am

    Overall dirigible craft make great sense because of their nature, appeal and energy saving potential. I hope they come back.
    Also with the improvements in solar panels and lithium batteries, I can see an all electric Zepplin solving many problems with ballasts – charging or discharging up the batteries do not impact weight change at all. There have already been at least 2 variations of flexible solar panels developed but the commercial availability seems slow. With most of the hull being tiled in solar panels there should be some formula in which the gradual recharge of the batteries make it a viable proposition.
    And of course you will have the quietness..
    Can wait.

  2. zeppflyer May 12, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    Many other technologies were tried during the golden age of airships to preserve lifting gas, both for economic reasons and to allow ships to cruise for greater periods of time.

    Ones used successfully include:
    Gutters along the turn of the hull on the Hindenburg and Graf Zeppelin II (and perhaps others) which collected rain water to compensate for spent fuel.

    Several hundred feet of canvas hose and a pump on the Hindenburg which could suck water up from the ocean as the ship hovered overhead.

    Condensers on the USS Akron and USS Macon which pulled the moisture out of the exhaust from their engines, thus recovering most of the weight of the spent fuel. (If you look at a picture of these two ships, the condensers are the vertical black stripes on their sides.)

    The first Graf Zeppelin used a fuel known as Blau gas (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blau_gas) to power the engines. Because this gas has roughly the same weight per unit of volume as regular air, the ship did not get lighter as it was burned. The drawback to the system was that the gas, being a gas, used up enormous amounts of the ship’s internal volume. Volume which could have been filled with hydrogen or helium to produce useful lift. This system was never used again on a production airship.

    Systems which were tested but not implemented:
    Electric heating elements in the gas chambers were tested on the Hindenburg. These were meant to relieve the fact that, during the night, gas contracts due to lower temperatures and produces less lift, forcing the jettisoning of ballast. When it warms up again in the morning, volume and lift increase, forcing the crew to vent gas. The heaters were to be turned on at night to keep the gas warm and lift constant. Ultimately, it was decided that the weight, power, and safety penalties of the heaters were not worthwhile.

    Hydrogen balloonettes inside the helium envelopes were tested on static experimental rigs. Instead of venting Helium, a ship could simply vent cheap, plentiful Hydrogen when a decrease in lift was needed. Encasing the Hydrogen inside the Helium cells provided a fireproof barrier between the Hydrogen and the outside environment.

    Ultimately, most of these experiments were abandoned in the US after the crash of the USS Macon ended rigid airship flight here. The Germans stopped after FDR made it clear that the US (at the time the only supplier) would not export Helium to Germany, even for civilian purposes. (The Hindenburg was originally designed to use Helium after the disaster of the British R101, but was forced to use Hydrogen by the German government after this ban was put into effect so that it could be flown for propaganda purposes.) Hydrogen is so cheap that the more esoteric measures were not worth either the weight or expense.

    Modern blimps and the semi-rigid Zeppelin NT’s are too small and have too short a flight time to make any of these technologies practical today, but all may be revived with modern technology and materials once larger ships begin to fly once again.

  3. zeppflyer May 12, 2011 at 1:59 pm

    The technology described in this article is interesting, but the description contains several errors.

    This tech, in fact goes back to the 30′s when both the Zeppelin company and the US Navy tested many systems to conserve lifting gas (Helium or Hydrogen) on airships and blimps. It was considered impractical at the time as the steel tanks that would be required to hold the compressed Helium would have been too heavy to be worthwhile. New materials, especially titanium or carbon fiber might change that.

    The issue with the article is that it confuses lifting gas (helium) and fuel. Fuel (usually diesel) is consumed over the course of a voyage by the engines that drive the ship forwards. This decrease in weight is offset by releasing Helium to bring the ship back into equilibrium.

    Except in true emergencies (a major leak in a Helium envelope, for instance), fuel is never dumped or burned just to maintain neutral buoyancy, but only to drive the ship forwards. If too much Helium has been vented due to changing atmospheric pressure or other occurrences which would require the ship to descend, water ballast is released to compensate and return the ship to neutral buoyancy.

    Thus, this technology, while it will save Helium, will not save any fuel. In fact, it may actually make a given airship less fuel efficient as power will be required to run the compressors needed to transfer Helium to the storage tanks.

    The cost of diesel to an operator, though, is ultimately secondary to the much greater cost of Helium which is quite expensive in quantity and becoming more so as the National Helium Reserve is depleted. So, in that respect, the technology may help to make airships more viable.

  4. Zeppflyer May 12, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    Why can’t Inhabitat

  5. stijns May 10, 2011 at 3:10 pm

    Probably not for 2013, but a Belgian engineer is working on a zero-emission, autonomous, nomad hydrogen-based airship that will never land.

    More on his project on http://www.aeromodeller2.be/

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