The concept of the airship is far older than conventional airplane technology, but it may become the latest high-tech solution to heavy-lift problems. Worldwide Aeros Corp., a Los Angeles-based manufacturer of lighter-than-air airships, recently received a patent on its control-of-static-heaviness technology (COSH), the company’s answer to external ballast necessary in conventional airships.
The problem with using airships for cargo was how to keep it on the ground once the payload was offloaded. COSH controls the vehicle’s buoyancy so that it can become heavier than air during ground operations and lighter than air during flight.
John Kiehle, director of communications for Worldwide Aeros said the COSH system compresses non-flammable helium into pressure envelopes. These envelopes contain and control the pressurized helium, allowing the airship to become heavy, or buoyant as needed, in a controlled manner. Air is pumped into separate chambers, which work in concert with the reduced helium lift to make the vehicle heavier when needed.
“ We anticipate these will serve commercial logistics, military and aid in disaster relief,” Kiehle said.
COSH was first built as a prototype called the Pelican for the Department of Defense. Aeros, owned by Ukrainian entrepreneur Igor Pasternak, is now working on a 66-ton variant that will be 550-feet long with a wingspan of 177-feet. Kiehle said it will have a 220-foot by 40-foot by 30-foot cargo bay in the belly. Called the ML-866, the new airship will be capable of traveling at a maximum speed of 120 knots, with a cruising speed of 100 knots, and a range of 3,100 nautical miles.
“This is very different because it has a rigid structure made of carbon fiber and aluminum,” Kiehle said. The landing cushions, designed for vertical landings, adjust for uneven surfaces, including water, and perform like a hovercraft by pushing air through them when the aircraft taxis. The landing cushions, or feet, are also equipped with gripping/suction capabilities that ensure the airship stays grounded and in place when not in flight – an extremely important feature for offloading cargo.