Boeing To Develop Hybrid Blimp-Rotorcraft

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The Boeing Co. and SkyHook International announced on Tuesday they will team up to develop the JHL-40 (Jess Heavy Lifter), a new neutrally buoyant rotorcraft designed to lift up to 40 tons and efficiently transport equipment and materials in remote and harsh environments. SkyHook, a Canadian company, holds a patent for the ship, and contracted with Boeing to develop and build it. It is expected to be used for energy, mining and logging operations, and will have a range of about 200 miles. The helium-filled envelope can support the empty weight of the vehicle plus fuel, and the lift generated by four rotors will carry the payload. "There is a definite need for this technology," said Pete Jess, SkyHook president and chief operating officer. "Companies have suggested this new technology will enable them to modify their current operational strategy and begin working much sooner on projects that were thought to be 15 to 20 years away." The JHL-40 is environmentally acceptable because it mitigates the impact of building new roadways in remote areas, Boeing said.

Boeing will build two prototypes of the JHL-40 at its Rotorcraft Systems facility in Ridley Park, Pa. Boeing did not disclose any launch date, but said the new aircraft will enter commercial service "as soon as it is certified" by Transport Canada and the FAA.