By Sergei V. Bendin
New heavy-duty airship projects are being actively developed in Russia and worldwide. Such innovative airships in the foreseeable future will appear in the sky to surprise mankind by their ability to transport tens and hundreds of tons of payload, and fly in winds of up to 35 m/s, and at the speed of 100-250 km/h on a range of 5,000 km and even more.
New Market Segment
Despite the popularization of heavier than air drones, the interest in aerostatic, i.e. lighter than air, manned and unmanned systems continues to grow. A behind-the-scene race is unveiling in the world to design and implement the heavy-duty transport airships. The reasons for this are obvious: the economic crisis, the growing demand for heavy air transport traffic, and the shortage of aviation transport fleet. Considering the features of aerostatic technologies engineering based on such a “conditionally free” natural resource as Archimedean buoyant force, there is growing interest in aeronautical transport systems, which prove to have their own special niche in the market segment of highly profitable commercial air movement.
Modern engineers have learned the airship history well. The most problematic tasks like ballasting or parking huge LTA ships have already resolved today quite successfully. New age transport aeroplatforms could complement the fleet of aircraft to expand the economic potential of global air-transport infrastructure and logistic business.
According to the newest forecasts by the marketers at Variant Market Research (“Global market of airships and its development forecast for the period 2015-2024 (million dollars)”), the capital capacity of the world airship market will reach $304 million by 2024. The cumulative aggregate gross revenue (CAGR) in 2016-2024 is 7.2%. However, the non-official race of innovative airships’ projects is already gaining momentum in full blast.
Nevertheless, assessing such forecasts, one should also take into account the global trends of the crisis. And it is possible that the dynamics of the development of such a segment as transport airships in the near future can be assessed both by lower indicators and by an unexpected investment surge in that market segment.
Hi-Tech Airships Are On The March
Today’s transport heavy-duty airship projects are actively being developed in different countries. The innovative projects like Airlander – 10 (HAV), LMH – 1 (Lockheed Martin), LCA60T (Flying Whale), Varialifter, Voliris (NATAC) and others have already been well known. Hi-tech airship projects are also developing in Russia, and among them are Aerosmena, Aerostatika, Panfilov’s transformer, DKBA’s LTA and hybrid concepts. If this fantastic picture becomes a reality, then this can engender large-scale development of the Arctic, Africa, Latin Americas, Antarctica, and the Asia-Pacific region. New generation airship developers are confident that this is not an empty dream but close to reality.
Russians Project the “Aerosmena” aeroplatform
To keep up with global trends, Russian engineering team of Airship Initiative Design Bureau Aerosmena (AIDBA), that is incorporated as a separate project chez SpasTrade LLC, is already proactively offering for investors to provide funds for this multifunctional thermo-ballasting heavy-payload aeroplatforms, “Aerosmena”.
The largest new generation airship of the Aerosmena project, which the AIDBA developers also call “aeroplatform”, will be able to carry 600 tons payload onboard. The diameter of the envelop of this lenticular airship will be about 220 meters, and the height more than 50 meters. The design of such a “flying saucer” allows you to cover a distance of up to 7500 km non-stop at a speed of to 150 km/h.
In the first phase of operation, such gigantic aeroplatforms will be for carrying heavy loads, as well as participating in rescue operation, including extinguishing extensive forest fires. After a period of operational transport testing for cargo transportation and during the formation of a flotilla of air platforms, this will open ways for the development of transatlantic and long-haul flights for a large number of passengers at affordable prices. That is, for one 50-hour flight from New-York to Moscow. Imagine this: 5,000 passengers will comfortably fly the breathtaking transcontinental route that one can only dream of today.
Variants Of The Flying Saucer
The “Aerosmena” concept is based on the four coherent keys: thermo-ballasting, multilevel control smart-system (CSS) based on the AI core, the wing aerodynamic, and multi-functionality.
There are several versions of the Aerosmena flying saucer with different specifications. The A20 will offer medical outpatient unit; cargo compartment with a loader crane; flying lounge-tribune for sport/recreation events fans, observers, VIPs as well as passenger compartment. The A60 will offer passenger compartment mobile workshop for repair of heavy equipment; local firefighter and rescuer service; mobile hospital block; as well as container shipper and module for solid, liquid, bulk and gaseous cargoes, and flying luxury hotel-yacht. It is also an aerial drone carrier.
Another variant, the A200, will provide compartments for the transportation of large batches of solid, liquid, bulk and gaseous cargo; complex for construction and installation operations; firefight and rescue complex; mobile workshop for repairing mining equipment; mobile power supply unit; as well as flying luxury hotel.
The A600 will come with aero base – as aircraft / drones carrier; cargo tank for heavy weight payload including hanging on the external suspension; as well as complex for construction and installation operations; fire and rescue complex; spacecraft launch pad and mobile complete production agriculture cycle enterprise. For extinguishing gigantic fires, it is best to use the A60 and A200 aeroplatforms
It should be noted that transportation of container, like any other payload, on the Aerosmena airship will offer benefits of cheap cost of transport, and eliminating additional logistics costs, since cargo can be delivered on a door-to-door scheme — from the sender to the addressee directly without intermediary of other transport and warehouses. Such “UFO” like the Aerosmena aeroplatform is able to serve any cargo container sea-ships at anchorage far away off seashore. This means that cargo transportation will become more economical and faster, since there is no need to use ports.
Funding To Start
Overall, the cost depends on specifications of the investor; and obviously, a single or exclusive aeroplatform will have a higher cost than one for the building several such aircraft in a series. Single unit construction cost aeroplatform A20 will not exceed $– 50 Mill. But in the series it will be about $40 million. The cost of building the first version of the A60 could be $65 – 70 million. The serial production cost of each unit will be $55 million, with the prospect of cheaper cost. An experimental version of the A200 will no more than $60 million. A600 airship with serial production will cost $75 million.
Let’s compare. The cost of the Lockheed C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft program with a carrying capacity of 37 tons was $1.4 billion. The cost of the program for the development and production of an Airbus Beluga XL aircraft with a carrying capacity of 50.5 tons was more than $1.1 billion.
This startup has already attracted attention of some potential customers who would like to purchase “flying saucers” as ready produce. Sustainable funding from today would enable this project to be fully implemented successfully, so that by 2024, Aerosmena’s first UFO-shaped air platform may be ready for operation. Currently, the AIDBA team is actively seeking for investment support to launch the first prototype manufacturing.