21 November 2015

Lockheed To Introduce Cargo Airships In Three Years

Lockheed Martin says it will introduce heavier than air civilian hybrid airships that use helium for most of its lift and engines and a wing shaped design for the remainder of its lift by 2018. Apparently prototypes are already in the air and have received FAA approval.

The airships will be capable of carrying twenty tons of cargo (about the same payload as a military C-130 aircraft), it can make direct trips without transfers from ship to train or truck, and it can operate in roadless areas.  It was originally designed for military use.

I've been an advocate of the idea for many years and have even written near future science fiction sketches featuring the idea, but until now, no one had made the concept a reality.

In my own research on the topic, airships have had fuel efficiencies, speeds, and costs roughly comparable to shipping cargo by truck.  Shipping cargo by train or by ship is much cheaper, but is slower in practice.  Shipping cargo by airplane is much more expensive, but much faster.

I've also advocated these kinds of airships for ecotourism, and to facilitate life in colleges or villages or oil drilling sites in isolated roadless areas.

I've also suggested using them in coordination with amphibious ships carrying Marines.  In this combination, the ship would provide a mobile, over the horizon base for military units just off a coastline.  The ship itself would travel, mostly empty (and perhaps more fuel efficiently and more quickly) to its destination, and then the soldiers and most of their gear would be delivered via airship across oceans where the opposition force had no forces positioned.

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