Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Your World Is Changing

This is a glimpse into the future, and one of the many technologies seamlessly incorporated into the space opera Transmat World

While Peak Oil and Climate Change are being debated by politicos, the nerds that actually bothered to attend math and science classes and listen are telling us it is a rapidly changing world, and not for the better. Population growth and global warming are increasing at a break-neck speed. 

Prospective Peak Oil Scenario
Image courtesy Raquel Baranow

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 is an alternative. It is slower and harkens back to an earlier time, but modern technology breathes new life into the concept of an airship.


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.

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 products of combustion fouling the atmosphere.


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, 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, the lifting gas does not have to be discharged to allow the ship to land. Instead, pumps suck out 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.


The rich will always ride their jets of combustion no matter the cost, but for millions 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.

Please leave your thoughts, comments, suggestions. They are always welcome.
Glen Hendrix, author of Transmat World

1 comment:

  1. These guys seem to be heading in a similar direction:

    BTW who are these robots who can read these captchas that I can barely make out?