October 14 - It might have come from the set designers of Star Wars or the pen of sci-fi genius HG Wells but an Australian proposal to construct a 150 m-diameter flying saucer-like balloon could be the next big thing in heavy lift operations.
Media reports in Australia have asked whether the Skylifter helium balloon (pictured below) might become a reality in the near future. The transport is projected to be able to lift 150 tonnes per trip over distances of 2,000 km over a 24-hour period.
Designers have projected uses such as moving infrastructure items into remote or inaccessible areas under the airship.
Around a decade ago, a similar project, Cargolifter, was developed by a German company that tried, and failed, to build a heavy lift airship. The project was abandoned in 2002.
Promoters of the Skylifter hope to attract investors and secure funding to allow a prototype to be unveiled in three years.
As reported previously in HLPFI, Calgary-based SkyHook International, together with Boeing, is developing a massive cargo airship that's capable of carrying over 80,000 pounds of freight over 200 miles. The HLV - for Heavy Lift Vehicle - is powered by helicopter engines and may become airborne as soon as 2014.
Reports in the international media suggest that 16 companies worldwide have airships in the test phase.