The Skylifter is a helium balloon sky-crane capable of moving and placing equipment and prefab buildings in remote areas. Currently often the only way to get equipment into remote areas is by helicopter, and the largest ones are only capable of  transporting 20 tons. The Skylifter promises a payload of a whopping 150 tons and a range of 1240 miles, meaning that not long from now we may have a less invasive way to place our prefab homes or to supply regions in need after disasters.

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Skylifter’s superior performance is due to a flattened profile that allows better moblility and less susceptibility to wind forces, allowing for a top speed of 45 knots. Coupled with a proprietary Voith-Schneider propeller, similar in concept to what modern tugboats use, the 150 meter craft will have unprecedented maneuverability. This is not just a pie in the sky concept (though it kind of resembles one?). The Australian based company has built a miniature model, and is working on a 23 meter test model with a full scale model within three years.

The capacity to move large objects long distances without roads and gently place them could revolutionize sustainable building in developing nations– delivering prefab medical, school and housing facilities where it is currently prohibitively difficult.

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Via Popular Science and The Economist