Aeroscraft: Holy Crap! Blimps Might Actually Be Good For Something!
Logistics. It's more than just a clever marketing campaign from the United Parcel Service.
Logistics has to do with managing materials, and the planning involved in any large, complex operation. The details around efficient shipping and distribution logistics — like how New York residents get to enjoy fresh strawberries in the wintertime — is usually a snoozer topic that most of us don't think about.
One company is seeking to revolutionize shipping, and maybe make the conversation a bit cooler. Typical methods of transport and shipping all have unique advantages and disadvantages. Planes are fast but require long quality runways and a lot of ground infrastructure to support their use. Ships carry large payloads but are slow and can't travel far inland, while trucks are small and limited to ground transport.
On the other hand, Worldwide Aeros Corp. is introducing a new and improved zeppelin called the Aeroscraft. The company claims that they've found an easier way to control zeppelins in fight, making them a more practical solution for carrying huge loads through the air. This could mean improvements in the transport of commercial goods, and ease humanitarian relief efforts. Perhaps the most meaningful innovation is in Aeroscraft's ability to ascend and descend vertically like a helicopter, but haul up to 250 tons of cargo like a mid-sized boat! The technology is also notable as it uses just one third as much fuel as a traditional cargo plane.
The company's founder, Igor Pasternak, devised a method for compressing helium, a key necessity in zeppelin transport. The ability to compress helium allows engineers to control the ships weight, so that it doesn't float away when the cargo is unloaded.
Pasternak maintains that though the Aeroscraft will cruise at a much slower speed than the average jet, its fuel efficiency and freedom from needing a runway and landing infrastructure will make it a quicker and more sensible mode of cargo transportation, especially in remote or dangerous locations.
I know what you're thinking. Boats have disastrous spills, planes sometimes crash and this zeppelin seems all too prone to some accidental piercing — from a simple pushpins or wayward needlepoint project — and it's a mess, cargo falling from the skies.
Apparently, the Aeroscraft zeppelin will be bulletproof and won't collapse if something does create a hole. With a 2005 grant of $3 million from the Pentagon, Aeros plans to deliver its first fleet by 2015.