Aeros: First Flight Soon For New Airship Design

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Aeros said this week its 266-foot-long lighter-than-air cargo aircraft will make its first flight in the "coming weeks." The company, based in Los Angeles, has been working on the Aeroscraft design since 2007, and began "float-testing" the aircraft early this year. The ship now in the works is a "proof-of-design engineering vehicle," the company said. The purpose of the flight-testing is to evaluate the pilot interface, system operation and controllability, as part of the company's program to develop the Aeroscraft model ML866, which will be about twice as big as the current aircraft. The test vehicle uses an "innovative variable buoyancy management system," the company said.

The ML866 will be a rigid, variable-buoyancy airship, the company says, designed to lift up to 66 tons of cargo for military and commercial operators. The company also plans to build a larger version, the ML868, capable of lifting up to 250 tons. Both aircraft will cruise at about 100 knots and burn about one-third as much as fuel as comparable fixed-wing aircraft, the company said, with a range up to 3,100 nm. The ship's variable-buoyancy system makes it possible to land vertically and offload cargo without the need to exchange ballast, minimizing the need for ground crew and ground facilities. The U.S. Department of Defense, DARPA and NASA have partnered with Aeros in the aircraft development. The video shows the aircraft in recent taxi tests.

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