Pentagon building saucer-shaped airships for cargo transport and surveillance missions

// January 8th, 2013 // Astronomy and Space News

Aeroscraft airshipDeveloped by Aeroscraft, the 266-feet-long by 97-feet-wide prototype airship called the Pelican is designed to lift up to 70 tons of cargo across long distances, using a fraction of the fuel needed by an airplane.  The project, run by the Pentagon’s Rapid Reaction Technology Office, has been underway for a few years now.  The Pentagon claims the new airship will be used for cargo missions but envisions it as a “potential tool for surveillance and reconnaissance missions.”

The 36,000 lb. prototype is much smaller than the final airship which will exceed 450 feet in length and use an advanced helium-filled structure in order to travel very long distances without refueling.  Unlike blimps that maintain a constant buoyancy and rely on ballast and fans to adjust their altitude, the Aeroscraft will employ a unique bladder system that can alter the craft’s static heaviness (relative to air) at will, dubbed COSH (Control of Static Heaviness). The system actually works quite similarly to how submarines use compressed air to float.  Travel in the aluminum airship of the future will be slow though.  “High speed” in the craft is considered to be any speed over 20MPH.

Aviation Week explained how the vehicle worked:

“The Aeroscraft controls its buoyancy by pumping helium between lifting-gas cells and pressurized tanks inside the composite aeroshell. Compressing the helium makes the vehicle heavier than air for easier ground handling and cargo unloading. Releasing the helium displaces air inside the vehicle and makes it neutrally buoyant. The buoyancy control system can vary the Pelican’s “static heaviness” by 3,000-4,000lb, enough to allow the prototype to take off vertically, yet be heavier than air for landing and unloading.”

 

Below are videos from Aeroscraft demonstrating the new airship.

 

Aeroscraft disk-shaped airship defense video

 

Aeroscraft disk-shaped airship defense video
Sources: Aviation Week, Aeroscraft

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