Earlier this month the 16,300 kg prototype airship made it off the ground for the first time at its home base in California.
The 230 foot long air vehicle’s frame is made using aluminium and carbon fibre composites and is covered with a reflective Mylar skin. The Aeroscraft with funding from NASA, DARPA and the US Department of Defence is unique because of its internal ballast control system which allows it to offload cargo without re-ballasting or the need to land. The Aeroscraft also uses about one-third of the fuel of conventional aircraft and because it can lift off and land vertically it does not need runways or ground personnel.
One of the markets being touted as a possible use for this beast is the wind energy sector, with a maximum payload of 134,400 lbs, the craft could be used in the future to transport wind turbine blades over 300 feet long, towers and other components direct to site potentially lowering the overall logistical costs.
The take off demonstration is one of the most recent in a long line of critical and successful tests. The first float test principally demonstrated the unique lightweight rigid carbon fibre structure conception and Control of Static Heaviness system of this radical airlift vehicle and met a key Aeroscraft performance goal: operate without ballast, ground infrastructure or handling.
Worldwide Aeros, the company behind the creation of the craft said that it requires more funding before the prototype can undergo further flight tests, and hopes that the DOD and others will add to the $35 million already invested to get this further off the ground.