Saturday, November 5, 2011

Dramatic Changes Coming to the Airline Industry

It is a rapidly changing world. Population growth and global warming are increasing at a break-neck speed. Although your life seems normal now, it won’t stay that way. Wind, solar, and nuclear energy projects of the future won’t be built on the basis of a referendum. They will be mandatory. Cars will have to go hydrogen (derived from electrolysis) or electric. And so will planes. The future of the airline industry for rapid travel about the globe will have to change. Jet aircraft will have to adopt hydrogen as a fuel. But there will be a future alternative. It is slower and harkens back to an earlier time, but modern technology breathes new life into the concept of an airship. Click on any image to enlarge.

The future of air travel.

By combining several unique concepts, modern airships will revolutionize air travel; carrying 5,000 passengers at a time for the cost of construction and maintenance - no fuel involved. The major problem with airships in the past has been two-fold: 1. They required ballast to offset lift, therefore the ballast and the lifting gas became consumables, each one in turn having to be jettisoned to make the craft rise or fall. 2. They could not land like a plane. A ground crew was required to handle the lighter-than-air craft, and it could not be done in a stiff breeze.

It costs $4000 to recycle ton of plastic bags worth $500 on open market.

These two problems and more have been fixed. You start with a lighter-than-air lifting body and add wings and a solid floor to which everything is attached. Flexible solar cells cover the body and power up lithium-ion batteries which turn motors and props, thrusting it through the air silently without the products of combustion fouling the atmosphere.

An inside look.

Lifting bags of helium, the lifting body design, and the wings provide lift. The frame of the ship is not metal. It is light-weight inflatable structures, much like the bouncy castle used for a kid’s birthday party. This structure is heavier duty than a bouncy castle, utilizing modern fiber technology to allow higher pressures resulting in a much stiffer support. These air-filled trusses support the solar cell skin on the outside and the lifting bags of helium on the inside.

The helium lifting bags are the key to making the airship work properly. They provide the lift to allow this ship to carry thousands of passengers or heavy cargo. Unlike in the past, however, helium does not have to be discharged to allow the ship to land. Instead, pumps suck down the helium gas, storing it in pressurized containers for re-use. This causes the lift bags to be variable in their lifting capacity, allowing the pilot to switch to a slightly heavier-than-air mode for more maneuverability when landing. The fact that it can land and be hangared like a plane greatly increases its safety in inclement weather.

If this had been around 15 years ago, the “paper or plastic” question would be moot. 

The landing can use such a short runway, for all intents and purposes, this airship is a vertical take-off and landing craft. As such, it can scoff at airports. This will be the air transport of Africa, developing its vast territories like no commercial airliner or wheeled vehicle can. It will bring Africa into the 21st Century.

Plenty of room.

The rich will always ride their jets of combustion no matter the cost for the speed, but for millions of more patient people the price of airfare could drop dramatically with the advent of solar-powered airships. We should start talking about planning and implementation now because it is not a matter of if but when.

Thoughts, comments, suggestions are always welcome.

Glen Hendrix, author of Transmat World

No comments:

Post a Comment