Aeros has completed its experimental rigid variable-bouyancy airship and accomplished the first of four tasks under its contract with the Pentagon’s Rapid Reaction Technology Office. The 230ft-long Aeroscraft prototype, called Pelican, has completed a ground-handling demonstration showing the 36,000lb vehicle can move without assistance from ground personnel, controlled from the cockpit and using its air-bearing landing gear. The Pelican was heavier than air for the demonstration.
A first float test principally demonstrated the unique lightweight rigid structure conception and Control of Static Heaviness (COSH) system of this radical airlift vehicle and met a key Aeroscraft performance goal: operate without ballast, ground infrastructure or handling.
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, says Pasternak, enough to allow the prototype to take off vertically, yet be heavier than air for landing and unloading. All of the tests are taking place inside Aeros’ airship hangar in Tustin, California, with the vehicle expected to reach a height of 10-15ft. Aeros wants to build a 450ft-long vehicle able to carry a 66-ton payload over a 3,000nm unrefueled range.
It uses one third of the fuel of airplanes. This type of vehicle could displace helicopters and some niches from trucks.