People driving near the town of Tustin, California may soon see something strange in the skies. It looks like something you might see being loaded into the torpedo tube on the starship Enterprise. In reality though it is a new generation of lighter-than-air craft that will soon being carrying cargo for the military.
The Aeroscraaft does have some similarities to the zeppelins of the firtst part of the 20th century with its metal superstructure and contains a lighter-than-air gas but that is where the similarities stop. The Aeroscraft is so much more than those distant ancestors with its carbon fiber technology, Mylar coating and use of Helium instead of the more volatile Hydrogen that most of those earlier airships used. The newer craft also has vertical and horizontal jet engines that allows it to take of vertically much like a helicopter.
“It allows the vehicle to set down on the ground. And then when we want to become lighter than air, we release that air and then the vehicle floats and we can allow it to take off,” project chief engineer Tim Kenny said.
The Aeroscraft passed its first flight test as it preformed a few simple maneuvers in its 500,000 square-foot hanger at the former Marine corp. base in Tustin, California. On January 3, 2013 the Aeroscraft proved that is was capable to take to the air as it went through that first shakedown test.
In 2005 the United States military award Worldwide Aeros a contract to build a new type of fuel-efficient lighter-than-air craft that could carry cargo to areas where the current aircraft couldn't land. The result was the Aeroscraft that went into production in 2009. The resulting craft is the 230-foot long craft that will travel at speeds of 130-miles-per-hour and can carry upto 20-tons of cargo.
"I realized that I put a little dot in the line of aviation history. A little dot for something that has never been demonstrated before, now it's feasible," said flight control engineer Munir Jojo-Verge.
The current Aeroscraft is only a half scale model of the one that the Aeros company plans to make when this one pass all its test. The full-sized craft is expected to be 500-feet long and be capable of carrying upto 60-tons of cargo and personnel. Other than military use the hopes are that one day the craft will be capable of commercial air service.
Other articles on the Aeroscraft that might be of interest: