Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Zeppelins could make a comeback with this solar-powered airship cargo mover

varialift airships solar powered airship picture 1
Assuming they have actually worked up the numbers reported here, this type of design solves two big problems.  The first is speed.  The aluminum shell allows a flight speed of up to three hundred miles per hours as it scales up which is huge compared to any fabric skin.  Then there is maximum weight.  They tell us that 3000 tons is a possibility.

That happens to be huge and describes carrying a load of  thirty rail containers.  Three across and ten long.  This is seriously competitive with both sea and rail.

An airship can arrive at a food packing plant in South America and lock on a load of such containers.  then they can lift and soon reach a velocity of close by 200 miles per hour.  In one day your crop is at least five thousand miles away.  My key point here is that collection nodes need not be fixed at all and we can deliver directly to distribution nodes.

This eliminates a huge time problem for food movement.  Vibration will also be slight as well.  Even raspberries can be shipped directly to market fast enough.  

Today, Container ships move up to 20,000 containers at a time, but the travel time is around ten to fifteen days in the Atlantic and much longer in the Pacific.  This would demand six hundred separate loads by airship, but it also would be mostly point to point with limited handling problems at either end.  Better yet the actual trip time would be typically be one day.  Thus we actually need fifty of these airships to do the job.

This also collapses infantry deployment times as well.  A combat brigade can be thus deployed globally from its staging area and arrive on the battlefield inside of perhaps three days.  Or from New Mexico to Beijing in about thirty six hours.  Thus Sea lift may well have become obsolete.

Zeppelins could make a comeback with this solar-powered airship cargo mover 

Varialift Airships
Zeppelins, the rigid airships most famously epitomized by the Hindenburg, now seem kind of retro, rather than the image of futurity they represented in the 1930s. But they could be about to make a comeback in a big way — courtesy of a new aluminum-shelled, solar-powered airship that’s being built by the U.K.-based company Varialift Airships.

According to the company’s CEO Alan Handley, the airship will be capable of making a transatlantic flight from the United Kingdom to the United States, consuming just 8% of the fuel of a regular airplane. It will be powered by a pair of solar-powered engines and two conventional jet engines.

While its lack of onboard battery would limit travel to daylight hours, and its speed will only be approximately half that of a Boeing 747, the Varialift airship does promise to be a useful cargo carrier. Its creators claim that it will be able to carry loads ranging from 50 to 250 tons. Larger models with payloads up to 3,000 tons aren’t out of the question either. Bulky cargo such as electricity pylons, wind turbine blades, and towers, or even prefabricated structures such as oil rigs could be carried underneath using cables. That means that cargo will have a weight limit, but no practical size limit.

Because it is an airship, which lifts off more like a balloon than an airplane, the Varialift airship could also be useful in this capacity since it doesn’t require a dedicated runway. This could make it valuable as a delivery vehicle in places with poor infrastructure.

“Variable lift airships will ultimately secure a significant percentage (possibly the bulk) of the global air freight business, and a small, but still extremely valuable portion of existing road freight business, particularly for long distance, bulky or lightweight goods,” the company claims on its website. “… The Varialift lands vertically and becomes heavier than air through compression of the lifting gas, [helium,] making it stable for loading and unloading.”

Varialift hasn’t yet begun construction on its production model. However, a prototype measuring 459 feet in length, 85 feet wide and 85 feet high is currently being built in France. New Scientist notes that it will be completed in the next nine months.

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