A new variety of rigid airship is under construction in Tustin, Calif., and this week the prototype successfully completed its first float tests. A series of maneuvers was conducted inside the ship's immense engineering hangar. The Aeroscraft vehicle will be able to take off and land vertically without a ground crew or runway, the company says. It also has a system that will enable it to carry cargo and offload without having to take on ballast, simplifying ground operations. The project has attracted financing from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Department of Defense and NASA.
The prototype is about 230 feet long, but a full-scale version is expected to be about twice that size. The full-scale version will be able to carry 66 tons of cargo and use about one-third less fuel than conventional aircraft, the company says. Aeros CEO Igor Pasternak told Gizmag that the company's next step will be to build a full-scale prototype for FAA certification. He said he doesn't plan to sell the ships, but will lease them out, providing trained crew and maintenance.