Flying Saucers Ready for Heavy-Lifting in Disaster Zones

September 28, 2010 at 5:34 pm

Quite an innovative approach. I can already envision a lot of use for this technology in disaster zones, especially those places that are disconnected from the rest of the world during natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods.

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TRANSPORTING large, clunky bits of equipment has always posed a challenge. Roads and railways do not reach everywhere, and even if they did, many cumbersome and heavy constructions need to be hauled in pieces, only to be put together at the final destination. Aeroplane cargo faces even tighter restrictions on shape and size, not to mention the need for runways. Heavy-transport helicopters, such as the Mil Mi-26 or Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane, address some of these difficulties, but their payloads are limited to 20 and nine tonnes, respectively, and the huge rotors create a powerful downdraft that makes handling that payload rather tricky. So people have long been looking for other ways round the problem. Now, Skylifter, an Australian aeronautical firm, thinks it has found the perfect solution.

The company is developing a piloted dirigible capable of carrying loads of up to 150 tonnes over distances as great as 2,000km (1,240 miles) at a speed of 45 knots (83kph). This would permit the craft to transport not just hefty components, but entire buildings, to remote areas. The company envisages modules ranging from rural hospitals and disaster-relief centres to luxury airborne cruise ships.