Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Submarine-style cargo airship built in California gets patent

The Aeroscraft prototype flies outside the Tustin air base blimp hangar during a test on Sept. 11, 2013, a month before a partial roof collapse at one of the World War II vintage blimp hangers put operations out of commission. The airship's unique, submarine-style flight system has been awarded a U.S. patent. 

Jeff Collins/Orange County (California) Register
12 May 2015

A unique airship built in one of Tustin’s hangars has been dismantled, but its submarine-style flight system has won a patent, Montebello-based developer Aeros Corp. has announced.

The invention is “a system for providing lift to an air vehicle with vertical takeoff and landing capabilities,” according to the patent.

The system was developed for the Aeroscraft, an airship that uses helium, like a blimp, to take off and fly. To land, onboard pumps compress the helium into tanks, allowing outside air to fill the hull. The air acts as ballast the same way water is used to allow a submarine to dive.

Igor Pasternak, Aeros CEO and ballast system designer, says his invention allows blimp-like airships to carry giant loads of cargo for the first time without needing ground support.

“Large capacity airships have long been a dream for cargo logistics flexibility, but impracticable,” he said.

For a blimp to carry 100 tons of cargo, it would need to pick up 100 tons of ballast every time it unloaded, Pasternak said.

“If you off-loaded 100 tons, your helium-filled aircraft will float away,” he said. “This is why airships never transitioned into cargo airships.”

The patented system will allow airships to load and unload cargo anywhere on the globe without needing a runway, help from ground crews or ballast, Aeros officials maintain.

The Aeroscraft prototype flew outside the Tustin hangar in the summer and fall of 2013 while crew members held tethers to help control it. But before it could stage its first untethered flight, the hangar’s roof collapsed in a windstorm, sending a shower of debris onto the ship’s Mylar-like hull.

The airship was damaged beyond repair and had to be dismantled, said Aeroscraft spokesman John Kiehle.

However, the company is in the process of planning construction of its first commercial vehicle, which will be able to haul 66 tons of cargo, Kiehle said. It hasn’t been announced yet where that ship will be built.

The company eventually hopes to build a 250-ton version of Aeroscraft.

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