back to article MIRACULOUS new AIRSHIP set to fly by 2013

Intriguing news on the airship beat today, as it is reported that a mysterious, well-nigh miraculous new technology – one which could potentially lead to the appearance of enormous aerial vessels fit to dwarf even the zeppelin leviathans of the 1930s – is to get flight trials within two years. Concept for a heavy-lift military …

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  1. Sir Cosmo Bonsor

    Excellent timing

    You bring this news to us on the anniversary of the Hindenburg disaster.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Has anyone looked at a mix of gases ..

    like a core of expensive helium, and then some smaller pockets of H2 ?

    1. Mike Richards

      Zeppelin thought of that

      The original design for the Hindenberg would have used hydrogen 'anti ballast' held in relatively small gas bags buried within the much larger helium-filled lifting bags. As the ship burned fuel, hydrogen would have been vented, reducing the lift.

      For all sorts of reasons, mostly to do with the cost of securing helium, the design was abandoned for a single set of gas bags.

    2. Wyrdness

      Other way round, surely

      Wouldn't it be better to have a core of light but flammable hydrogen, surrounded by heavier but inert helium? That way, the helium would protect the hydrogen from risk of explosion.

      1. garbo
        Troll

        Aren't saying the same thing?

        Hydrogen surrounded by Helium. Or are you being facetious?

    3. rob hindle

      Or a mix of H and He

      If you were to blend cheaper hydrogen with the helium it would it be inflammable? presumably at a certain percentage yes, below that no. A bit like how the 80% nitrogen in the air mitigates the propensity of the oxygen component to react with flammable substances.

      If a H/He mix was "safe" with a high H content the overall cost would reduce and venting gas more affordable (and indeed, the capital cost of filling the airship initially would be less).

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just get over Hindenburg and use hydrogen

    It's really not that dangerous and helium is far to scarce.

    1. LuMan
      Thumb Up

      True

      It's not such a bad suggestion. There are other dangerous substances used in transportation that are just handled more safely; airline fuel and petrol for starters. Although Hydrogen is nice and explode-able, if it's held securely and all relevant safety precautions are met it becomes more viable.

      Despite the Hindenberg being the last of 22 hydrogen-lift airships to catch fire, they all seemed to have the same basic construction and tech. Think: how many tests did NASA do before actually putting someone at the top of a giant firecracker that can explode at any moment? If the best idea is only marred by one fundamental hurdle then we only need scale that particular hurdle. Make Hydrogen safe and we have an almost perfect solution to heavy lift logistics.

      1. Chris Lovell
        Thumb Down

        All about context

        On the face of it, sound comments all-round.

        However, the purpose of this vessel is for military use. Military vehicles in dangerous situations don't tend to carry with them enough fuel to cause enough concern past their own safety. This thing is for transporting large numbers of lives outside of safe airstrips, the very last thing it needs is to be vulnerable to internal detonation.

      2. HAV304
        Flame

        Gas use.

        There is no need to use Hydrogen from an economic or safety point of view. Once you fill a modern hybrid air vehicle with Helium it uses very little Helium due to the fact that modern envelope materials have increadibly low leakage rates and that the internal pressure differential is minimal, so even a few dozen bullet holes would not make much of a difference (Not that anyone flies so low). The days of using goldbeaters skin and rocket fuel for paint ended ages ago.

        The cost of jet fuel is the real issue and the ability of a modern hybrid to do long range point to point cargo, passenger or surveillance operations for one third of the total fuel is one big factor behind the LEMV program in particular.

        Regards JB (Airship & Blimp Consultant)

        1. Daniel 4

          cost of jet fuel related to cross-section?

          But then a hydrogen based blimp will have a considerable advantage in weight-to-volume lift ratios of the gas bags, resulting in a smaller cross section, and less drag, so greater range (or much larger payload capacity). Am I missing something here?

          That said, the other problems with hydrogen (often glossed over by armchair designers) coupled with the problems in getting any such design ok'd by either the FAA (or most of their international counterparts) or any underwriter makes hydrogen as a lifting gas a lost cause, leaving such questions academic anyway.

          -d

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Flame

      Hydrogen use.

      Helium is the only approved lifting gas and no serious insurance company will go near a project using explosive Hydrogen. Just remember the nuke reactors in Japan venting Hydrogen had a slight explosion or two recently.

      Helium is very abundant as a by product of natural gas liquifaction and there are vast reserves in the gas fields of Qatar, Eastern Siberia, Algeria and new yet untapped reserves in Australia.

      If you want to read more on the subject, there is a Helium page on my comedy web site 3w airship.me

      Regards JB (Airship & Blimp Consultant)

      1. Anne Ominous

        "Abundance" is a relative term.

        Helium may be "abundant" in and around the earth, but CAPTIVE helium, in its pure molecular form, is difficult to isolate. Don't confuse the two.

        The US used to have a vast reserve, created by government, that the government has since decided to sell off. The dumping of that reserve has ruined the market for helium in the US, which means that we aren't producing it anymore in sufficient quantities.

        We could, but we aren't. Are you suggesting that we buy helium from Qatar or Australia? Before that is necessary, we could start producing it again ourselves. But right now, our reserves are low. Granted, government created the reserve in the first place, but government is currently spending that reserve in a way that destroys the market.

        MAYBE that's not intentional. But these days, I don't like to assume.

  4. Joe User

    Blimps/dirigibles in a combat zone

    Looks good on paper, not so good in real life. Bullet holes tend to have an adverse effect on gas bags; anti-aircraft missiles are even worse.

  5. Steven Raith
    Paris Hilton

    Page 2 COSH picture

    Nice article, but how much does that picture of the donut shaped COSH look like a half-fitted condom?

    That's the real reason for using internal COSH tank thingies - it saves the airship from looking like a giant penis.

    Well, that's what I'm telling myself from now on, anyway.

    Steven R

    Paris. Need I explain?

  6. Chris Miller
    Thumb Up

    Paint it green

    And you've got Thunderbird 2. Probably won't manage Mach 5, though.

  7. CaptainHook
    FAIL

    Physics Fail

    "Enter Pasternak with his COSH equipment, which compresses helium into tanks, so removing lift and adding weight."

    The system isn't gaining weight by compressing the gas into higher pressure storage, it's just increasing the density of the craft as a whole.

  8. Ian Ferguson
    Troll

    Fun stuff

    I only wish Lewis was as enthusiastic about dubiously-practical renewable energy as he is about dubiously-practical airships ;)

  9. Elmer Phud
    Happy

    Similar

    I looked to the side of me here and saw Thunderbird 2, I look on the screen and see something looking remarkably similar.

    1. fiddley
      FAIL

      Ermmm...

      ...and for a body of unchanged volume with increased density and a downward acceleration of 1g you will be able to measure an increase in w_____.

      Fill the blank. :)

      1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: Ermmm...

        I think you'll find that what's "unchanged" is the external pressure and so the airship volume is in fact reduced when you squeeze some of the helium into a box.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @Ken Hagan

          Unless they let in some air to replace the helium. In that case, the volume (and, more importantly, the aerodynamics) stay the same, and the mass increases. The weight increases too.

          1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

            Fixed volume?

            I was assuming a non-rigid outer shell. I find it hard to imagine a rigid one that doesn't weigh *far* too much to get airborne no matter what you fill it with.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Grenade

      Re: Blimps/dirigibles in a combat zone

      Blimps are currently being used in Afghanistan, at a low enough altitude that occasional lucky pot-shots with a rifle will hit. We fixed it with gaffer tape and more helium. The body was resilient enough that multiple holes weren't a show-stopper, although we had to keep a steady supply of helium coming in.

      If someone actually used a missile then all bets are off, but I'm sure these would be escorted by helicopter/jet CAS in a combat zone.

    3. F111F
      Go

      Yes, Please Do Explain...

      preferably with pictures and/or video. It is Friday, after all...

    4. Francis Boyle Silver badge

      All* airships look like giant penises

      That's (the main) part of their appeal.

      *except the ones that look like Thunderbird 2, obviously.

    5. HAV304
      Alert

      COSH

      COSH is a longer term research only project. The real answer is the use of a hybrid air vehicle design and the associated far heavier take off static weight that means you do not need to carry heavy compressors or very difficult to certify composite pressure tanks that need to be both fire and bullet proof.

      Regards JB (Airship & Blimp Consultant)

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Grenade

      AA fire.

      Not a real risk factor as the Taliban et al don't have any missiles that can reach 20,000 ft, which is the operating altitude of the LEMV and the two diesels won't give an IR lock on unless you stand next to one with your SAM 7 etc. Luckily they can't even shoot down low flying Helicopters these days.

      Regards JB (Airship & Blimp Consultant)

    7. Marco van Beek
      Boffin

      Adding Air...

      Airship Industries had a method whereby they added outside air into a sealed sock inside the main envelope. This is a net gain in weight because it is adding something that wasn't there before. I suppose that recovering water from the exhaust is adding external weight, but it doesn't half seem like a long way to go about it, for something that can be done with a small pump.

  10. /\/\j17

    Thunderbird are go?

    Maybe it's the shitty background scene in the image but am I the only one who thinks that's just Thunderbird 2 with a lick of camouflage paint...?

  11. Pete 2

    Wasteful use of Helium

    He is a very rare gas - since it is only produced as a byproduct of radioactive/nuclear processes. As such, it's probably THE least renewable substances we know of - and far too useful and valuable to waste of merely ferrying american soldiers around.

  12. Andy E
    FAIL

    Needs better camouflage

    Yes it does look a bit like Thunderbird 2 but they weren't trying to camouflage the Thunderbirds. Whoever painted this one was obviously given the wrong brief of where it was heading to.

    I'm also wondering what effect a few bullet holes would have on the lifting capability.

    1. TonyG

      More wasteful than party ballons?

      All elements are the by-product of radioactive/nuclear processes.

      Helium isn't that rare, something like 5% of all natural gas reserves are helium

      Granted it is a finite resource as is gas, oil, coal and we don't have a problem using that do we?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Go

        Usage and Wastage

        Lewis is sadly getting our hopes up when he has already written that he knows better:

        * http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/02/05/helium_dome_forever/

        There may be plenty of my favourite M&S sandwhiches being stocked each day, but if I never bother to grab them in time they are for all practical reasons as rare as scotch-mist. (And yes I was late, and yes it was egg and cress, and yes everyone in the office regretted my choice).

    2. HAV304
      Alert

      Total rubbish.

      You have got Helium 3 mixed up with normal Helium. There is plenty of Helium available as a by product of natural gas liquifaction from the vast gas fields of Qatar, Eastern Siberia, Algeria and new finds in Australia. You will run out of oil well before you run out of Helium, although solar panels will be so efficient by then, that the hybrid air vehicles with their flatter lifting bodies will all be solar assisted diesel electric designs rather than the present high tech German diesel engines.

      See the Helium page of my Gasbags site 3w airship.me for more info on Helium supply.

      Regards JB (Airship & Blimp Consultant)

    3. HAV304
      Go

      Helium.

      If you want to know more about how cheap Helium is see the Helium page of my Gasbags comedy site: www.hybridblimp.net and click on the last press link about all the Helium in Eastern Siberia, Qatar and Algeria.

      Regards JB (Airship & Blimp Consultant)

    4. HAV304
      Go

      Bullet holes.

      They only have a long term effect in terms of topping up the gas fill, as the internal pressure differential is so low and the envelope volume so high that you can fly even with a few unrepaired holes.

      Regards JB (Airship & Blimp Consultant)

  13. oldcodger
    Flame

    Hindenburg and aircraft dope

    Hi,

    The Hindenburg fire started from a static discharge that ignited the extremely inflammable paint job that had been used on the fabric skin. This was silver coloured aircraft dope, consisting of a mixture of aluminium powder and cellulose acetate.

    The hydrogen only caught fire as the fabric skin burnt away and the flames reached the H2 gas cells. If you watch the film of the fire you can see that the hydrogen just burn off, there was never any explosion.

    Another useless fact about hydrogen, some years ago I read that when you got "air" in your house central heating radiators, it was probably hydrogen evolved from the reaction of acidic water and the copper pipes and steel radiators. At the time I had "air" in my home rads, so in the spirit of scientific investigation I found the bleed key, opened the valve on one of the "air" locked rads and applied a lit match to the gas rushing out, I was amazed to see a foot long blue flame roar out of the bleed valve for a minute or so. Looking back on it I was perhaps lucky that the rad was full of H2 and not a explosive mixture of H2 and air, so I did not blow the rad apart, and possibly the wall as well!

    TTFN

    P

    !

    1. Daniel Evans

      Bleeding Radiators

      I think I'll offer to bleed the radiators in my house in future - hopefully "it was in the name of science!" will be a valid excuse...

    2. DZ-Jay

      @oldcodger

      Thank you for that, I was going to post a rather similar comment on the nature of the Hindenburg fire.

      -dZ.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I thought it was thermite

      I recall that the outside of the Hindenberg was first painted with iron oxide paint - as was everything in those days, and then they painted it silver to reduce the solar load, or to make it pretty, whatever.

      As any fule no, iron oxide and aluminium powder not the best choice of fireproof coating.

  14. M7S

    Superheating the helium at take-off

    I read this, as in heating the gases in an airship for rapid ascent, mid-battle, in one of the Oswald Bastable books by Michael Moorcock. I'm not saying that MM invented it, although as a fantasy writer that is his job, it might be something that was theorised or even practised years before.

    Can anyone enlighten me please as to whether or not this was the origin of this idea?

  15. Alan Brown Silver badge

    Bullet holes...

    Don't do a hell of a lot. It took incendiaries to start making a difference to the Zeppelins bombing london in WW1

    Hydrogen is relatively safe, but it's a bitch to work with in terms of its tendency to make things brittle. Even standard rubber toy balloons go funny after 3-4 days of having hydrogen in them (Many countries use it for balloon gas because helium is "too expensive")

    I wondered about using Compressors ~25 years ago as a way of neutralising bouyancy. Guess I should have patented the idea. :)

    Forget about the Hindenburg, that was an aluminum fire. You should be more worried about R101-syle scenarios (The USA lost both its US Navy lifters in similar incidents). Airships don't fare well in microbursts.

    1. bitten
      Headmaster

      jules verne

      As far as I remember in Cinq semaines en ballon, Jules Verne also describes heated gas. So he, Nadar or whoever already had that idea.

    2. HAV304
      Go

      HAV's in convective activity.

      Hi All,

      Modern weather radar installed in the new hybrid air vehicles will do a lot to negate any risks from downbursts when combined with ground and satellite based weather radar systems for the bigger picture. The Germans never lost a big Zeppelin making numerous croosings of the ITCZ (Inter tropical convergence zone) which having crossed it heading for Brazil in a yacht and flying around Trinidad, is one very bad place for severe thunderstorms.

      The modern hybrid air vehicles like the LEMV (HAV 304) are much more powerful with their high tech German diesels and when combined with the lifting body shape they can start a sudden climb or descent in a much more decisive way than an old Zeppelin. They do not fly like an airship as they have both more power available and a flying wing shape that will enable them to deal very effectively with up or down draughts, although they are much safer in severe turbulence because you can not loose control of one, as they have positive stability factors from pendulous stability, so can't be tipped over in flight. If an active tropical storms or tornadoes are avoided they are very safe and the long endurance of such diesel engined HAV's means they will have the reserves at destination to hold clear for days if required. Not quite the situation of the Air France Airbus they are fishing up at present in terms of ultimate safety.

      Regards JB (Airship & Blimp Consultant)

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    'Well-nigh miraculous new technology'

    Ummm......this is how model submarines have worked for decades.

    /coat because I think I have finally outgeeked myself.

  17. Alan Firminger

    Why does it take eighty years to invent the obvious ?

    Think of a bit of string round a gas bag. Tension the string to compress the gas.

  18. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    Neat idea which keeps in mind pespective.

    It seems when people have looked at the compressor idea they imagined *huge* compression ratios (100s of atm in the tank). This fellow has worked out its about changing the *average* density of the airship itself. Pumps the He into some double or triple strength gas bags, leave air in the rest and voila, down she goes.

    Neat. Subtle and a good use of the greatly increased room temperature strength of various fibers.

    On the topic of bullets. An old school friend told me about a demonstration they gave at his officer cadet course.

    The fired some machine gun rounds (9mm) at a water soaked blanket hanging on a clothes line.

    The bullets did not pass through.

    The combination of heavy load (the wet blanket is 100x of times heavier than any bullet) which was free to fall backwards decelerated the bullet enough to retain it in the layers of blanket.

    The builders of the Atlas launch vehicles (not the current design) used to demonstrate that hitting it *hard* with large mallet had no effect on it despite it only being kept stable by internal air pressure.

    I think this sort of airship will use a tight woven Kevlar for its skin so as long as the air pressure is not too high normal rounds won't work (not after they have decelerated by being fired a km straight up. Incendiary *might* ignite the Kevlar and all bets are off with armor piercing but this is a *very* big structure. It would *sink*, not crass like an aircraft.

    I wish them luck with the prototype. Personally I would have tapped the gas cells in the Zeppelin and used *them* for fuel. But what do I know.

  19. Peter H. Coffin

    COSH revolution

    So, the entire revolution for this is an implementation of an idea published in a juvi short story written in 1964 called "The Great Gas Bag Race"?

  20. John Savard Silver badge

    Obvious

    My inclination would be to design a reasonably buoyant craft using helium for most of its lift, and have a rope from it extending to a balloon a safe distance above filled with hydrogen providing enough additional lift for it to fly, which is jettisoned when it is time to land.

    Compressing the helium requires a heavy bag to put it in. It doesn't increase the mass of the airship, but it does increase its apparent weight because it decreases its volume, and hence the amount of buoyant air it displaces.

    Running a dehumidifier to get lots of water out of the air is certainly an interesting idea, and it takes less energy, say, than making liquid nitrogen or dry ice for the same purpose.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The obvious answer

    to the problem of excess buoyancy as fuel is burnt is to use a small nuclear power plant instead. I for one am amazed that Lewis, of all people, did not mention what appears to be the ideal technology for giant airship propulsion.

    According to Wikipedia: "A small reactor was used to supply power (1.5 MWe) and heating to McMurdo Station, a US Antarctic base, for ten years to 1972, testing the feasibility of such air-portable units for remote locations."

    Clearly you would need a large airship just to carry the reactor but, with efficient modern motors and 1.5 MWe to play with, there should be plenty of juice left over to power something several times larger!

    1. Stephen Bungay

      100s of Atmospheres...

      Yeah you could do that, but that would be one heck of a pile of work. I'd use high volume compressor plumbed into the gas bags along the length of the ship so that one could more accurately control the air-ballast. Use a composite tank that runs the length of the ship (or series of them plumbed together). Why composite tanks? Well they are good for extremely high pressures (doesn't mean you have to use them that way), making them nice and safe when used at high altitude in an unpressurised environment (why have the tanks in the pressure-vessel?).

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Happy

      Tedlar and Kevlar

      Bit of confusion in the last comment as Kevlar is a good material for making airship gondolas or fins, but Tedlar is the best material for envelopes. The envelopes are of a sandwich construction, but Tedlar will definitely be a main layer, although carbon fiber is slightly better for gondolas and fins, although more expensive the Kevlar.

      Regards JB (Airship & Blimp Consultant)

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      rope ... extending to a balloon a safe distance above

      A sort of anti-parachute. Deploy it when you want to go up, deflate it to stop. I like it :)

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Alert

      Ballast control research.

      You have to convince the FAA and the insurance companies that a new technology is ultra safe before it can be used in any aircraft for public transport, cargo or even military operations, unless it is flown on a flight test only approval. They were not impressed with this idea otherwise they would have allowed the tanks inside the main envelope instead of insisting they are outside causing a serious increase in drag and slowing the airship to a low speed.

      Weight control is very important with any LTA vehicles and there is at present no way a COSH system can be more effective than a hybrid air vehicle like the LEMV (HAV 304) for static weight control. This type of research is trying to answer a question that already has an answer. I would guess we are 50 years away from a COSH system that could be used to solve a problem that no longer exists and we always will be.

      Regards JB (Airship & Blimp Consultant)

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And in other news...

    Fire is hot, the sun is bright and pain hurts.

    Anyone familiar with the principal of the submarine is familiar with the principal being implemented here. Compress the gas into tanks, and not steel tanks, you'd use tanks like those made by lincoln composites (no affiliation). light weight and capable of extremely high pressures so pressure at altitude should not be a problem. The only engineering difficulty I can see that you might have is one of moving large quantities of gas fast enough do the job.

  23. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    Helium would have been cheaper if Clinton hadn't sold off the strategic reserve.

    But you know, you get much more lift with Hydrogen, and it should be possible in this day and age to make the gas the least of your problems.

    As I understand it the chief problem facing the crew of an airship is that given the sheer size of the thing it is inevitable that one end will encounter air at a very different density than the other at some time, bringing with it the danger of the whole thing standing on end (the atmosphere isn't of constant density at any given height due to weather). Nosing up (or down) has been the cause of more than one lost airship - most famously the Akron.

    Perhaps modern electronics coupled with this compression idea will finally make the airship a viable means of transport.

    Afterthought: I realized after watching Rocket Ship Ajax on "Flash Gordon" that the sight of these things in the 30s must have inspired the original artists ideas on how rockets would "float" through the air.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Go

      Big blimps.

      The way forward is not to try and reinvent the wheel and use a heavy compressor with external drag additions that might explode, but to change the basic envelope shape. The US military have realised this some time ago with the LEMV program, even though there is still basic research on ideas like COSH.

      Regards

      JB (Airship & Blimp Consultant)

    2. Anne Ominous

      Probably not density.

      It is not likely that you will encounter a sudden interface between two different areas of density, unless you hit a thermocline. And even then, if the density of your gasbag is itself evenly distributed, there is no reason that density, by itself, should nose you either up or down.

      I do not dispute that the Akron was lost due to a tilted condition. But the idea that mere atmospheric density conditions caused it is not very likely, unless it was near-hurricane conditions, with sudden drops of pressure over a very few feet.

      You can't expect any gasbag to survive near-hurricane conditions anyway. So the issue is moot.

  24. Eddy Ito Silver badge
    Flame

    eight word title for a two bit comment

    Hot helium for lift? A dirigi-balloon?

    Flames... for the heat of course.

  25. Frumious Bandersnatch Silver badge

    only four solutions that I can think of

    #1 Invest heavily in portable fusion generators. These will be able to provide lift, obviously, but it will give us a closed cycle where we can transmute between water, hydrogen and helium to tweak the overall craft density without unsafe build-up of hydrogen gas.

    #2 Go to Jupiter and find some of the giant jellyfish that float in the atmosphere there. Through years of selective breeding we can get them to tolerate the lower pressures and rarefied atmospheric conditions here on Earth, until we have a new viable beast of burden.

    #3 Lock Steven Hawking and Umberto Eco in a room until they work out the mechanics of creating a wormhole into a parallel dimension and building a probe capable of returning a sample of ice-9 from one of the Vonnegutian realms. Then get the Darpa boffins to work out a safe fuel cycle along the lines of that in point #1 using this new material. Cross our fingers that the blimp doesn't crash land over any ocean, lake, reservoir, waterway or ground water. If we can't get into the Vonnegutian realm immediately we may have to employ an I Ching expert to help navigate through a Dickian space or Gernsbach continuum first. This might be risky, though, as we might end up finding that we've already solved the problem of Zeppelin explosions before the Hindenburg disaster precipitating a full tilt into one of those Teutonicly dominated timelines.

    #4 Forget about it and make do with getting around in our flying cars.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Joke

    Name it ...

    ... Thunderbird 2?

  27. Pirate Pete
    Coat

    That's all great, but...

    will it have Wi-Fi?

  28. Neoc

    Woot!

    Go me! ^_^ I had barely gotten through the first half of the first page (describing the problem with airships) and I had already asked myself "why don't they just re-pressurize the extra gas?"... and then found out on page 2 that it's exactly what they're trying to do

    Can't be much of a solution if a non-engineer (let alone non-aeroengineer) like me comes up with the same solution simply by having the problems described.

  29. Anne Ominous
    WTF?

    New??? They call this new???

    Christ. I don't remember who the author was, but I remember reading a story about adjusting the density of a human-transport balloon using mechanical compressors, when I was a child. And I don't mind saying that not only was that long ago, but the story had been written long before that. Verne maybe? I don't recall off-hand.

    If they can pull it off with modern technology, great. But the suggestion that this is a "new' idea is just plain ludicrous.

  30. Mips
    Jobs Halo

    Zeplin with a Z please

    None of your lower case names here please.

    COSH, Diesel and gas turbine power, exhaust condensate recovery! Oh the complexity. Oh the weight. Will it ever fly? May I have another 5000m3 of helium please.

  31. AlanB

    Heated gas

    Farmer's Riverworld had a balloon with heated gas for extra lift, based on Verne's story. (The aliens had carefully designed some barrier mountains to be just impassable with conventional hydrogen or hot air balloons using the available technology, but hadn't thought of using hot hydrogen. (Helium wasn't available in the setting.))

    And there was (I think) a AC Clarke story featuring hot hydrogen balloons heated by naked flames - perfectly safe, since the burners used tanks of pressurised oxygen as "fuel" to burn in a hydrogen atmosphere, where neither unheated hydrogen nor helium would give any lift at all.

  32. Graham Bartlett

    @Anne Ominous

    I remember the same story, I think. It definitely wasn't Wells' "The war in the air", and I'm pretty sure it wasn't Verne either. But still in the 1910s or perhaps earlier, so the autor hadn't really anticipated that the engine would lift the entire weight of the aircraft as well as providing direction control - understandable, given the massively limited public understanding of aerodynamics and the massively limited power-to-weight ratio of engines existing or imagined. As a result, the imaginary airships in this book are lift-neutral, so the flyer can turn his engine off and remain airborne. I need to look it up and find who it was.

  33. ashkelon
    FAIL

    Disaster Recovery Implementation

    You know, looking at that thing. the Walrus got cancelled because it was at risk of low-tech anti-aircraft guns for too long. But the people who could REALLY use this technology, and use it WELL, is not the military, but FEMA and other disaster recovery processors.

    I mean, think about being able to set that much payload down in terms of relief supplies, personnel, and technology in places where a conventional airfield, masts or refueling are impossible or impractical.

    But killing always gets the big bucks and the big technology, right? If we prove it there, the private sector can have it in 10 years. Or 20.

    *mutter*

  34. solaries
    Welcome

    Airship 2013

    I remember about thirty years listening to man say that hydrogen was safer than ordinary airplane fuel and he would stake his life on it. So lets stick to hydrogen please and the menace to the Hindenburg was the gasoline that ran the engines and the waterproof coating on outside hydrogen bag as for the Macon there was a program that told what cause that disaster was poor maintenance and running the airship without proper repairs. I hope to see the day when airships again fly in the air they would be a wonderful sight to behold again.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Impressive, but nothing new …

    German technology, have a look at http://www.cargolifter.com/index.php?id=aktuell&L=1 …

    In general a good solution for a lot of problems.

  36. heyrick Silver badge

    Truth in television?

    Where's Sportacus [*] and the hyperactive pink girl?

    * - no, that's not a typo

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