Aeroscraft Airship Certified Experimental
The prototype fully rigid Aeroscraft airship produced by Aeros Corp has hovercraft landing gear and operates with a buoyancy system similar to that used by submarines and this week it received its experimental airworthiness certification from the FAA and began flight testing at Tustin, Calif. Aeros' prototype is 266 feet long and 97 feet wide. It is powered by three engines that provide both thrust and control (by swiveling), augmented at speed by aerodynamic control surfaces. First flights of the airship have been tethered, but untethered flights are expected to follow early next month, and possibly sooner. The test vehicle is ultimately expected to carry loads up to 2,000 pounds, but the final vehicle is expected to carry much more. And that has attracted the interest of the U.S. government.
The Aeroscraft is being developed to lift more than 65 tons of cargo and deliver it efficiently (if slowly) over 3,000 nautical miles. The U.S. government has already funded the project to the tune of $35 million. Loading and (particularly) offloading 65 tons from an airship presents a buoyancy problem that Aeros believes it has resolved. That final vehicle is expected to have a body that is more than 400 feet long and contain within that structure fabric pressure tanks as part of a system the company calls COSH, or Control of Static Heaviness. COSH works by compressing the vehicle's lifting helium gas into the pressure tanks, making the gas heavier than air. The system allows the vehicle to alter its buoyancy without dumping expensive helium overboard. In theory, that system, complemented by the airships rotating engines, also means that the vehicle can takeoff and land on any suitable open area, and offload or load cargo without requiring extensive ground crew or gear.