Friday, October 15, 2010

Flying Saucer-Shaped Airship Could Carry Cargo

Flying Saucer-Shaped Airship Could Carry Cargo.
Tracy Staedter

Oct. 04, 2010 -- Shipping awkwardly large, heavy objects -- think buildings and ships -- crosscountry is not the easiest thing to do. Usually, the items are broken down into smaller pieces and transported by rail and then transferred to a truck that can handle wide loads. That takes time, fuel and depending on the load's size, assistance from local law enforcement. Flying objects via airplane or heavy-transport helicopter isn't easier because of flight and weight restrictions.

An Australian company called Skylifter thinks they may have a solution: a saucer-shaped dirigible that can be flown directly between two points without stopping traffic. Their helium-filled airship is round, instead of the cigar shape familiar above baseball games, eliminating a front or back that needs to be pointed in a particular direction. This makes wind direction less important; the ship can use whatever's available.

It's also flat, instead of big and round like a balloon, which makes it easier to steer. Upon landing, the surface area acts like a parachute, making the vehicle more stable. Stability also comes from the position of the load, which dangles enclosed on a platform below the ship, shifting the center of gravity to a lower point.

A full-sized Skylifter should measure nearly 500 feet in diameter, and should be able to haul 150 ton as far as 1,240 miles away at about 50 miles per hour. Right now, the vehicle is still in a smaller, prototype stage to demonstrate how it works. But scan the horizons about three years from now and you may just see flying saucers hauling payloads across the sky.

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