By Sergei V. Bendin for VT
CEO of Airship Initiative design bureau Aerosmena (AIDBA), expert chez aeronautic field, journalist, vice-chief of Moscow branch of Aeronautic Committee chez Geographical Society of Russia.
The new heavy-duty airship projects are being actively developed in the Russia. Such innovative airships in foreseeable future will appear in the sky to surprise mankind by their ability to transport of tens and even hundreds of tons of payload, and fly in winds up to 35 m / s, and even worst on speed 100-250 km / h on the range 5,000 km and even more. Their project speed is 100 to 250 km / h.
<NEW MARKET SEGMENT
Despite the popularization of heavier than air drones, the interest in aerostatic manned and unmanned systems continues to grow. A behind-the-scene race is unveiling in the world to design and implement the heavy-duty transport airships. The reasons are obvious: the economic crisis, the growing demand for heavy air transport traffic, the shortage of transport aviation fleet.
Considering the features of aerostatic technologies engineering based on such a “conditionally free” natural resource as Archimedean buoyant force, there is growing interest in aeronautical transport systems, which prove to have its own special niche in the market segment of highly profitable commercial air movement. Modern engineers have learned the airship history well. The most problematic tasks like ballasting or parking huge LTA ships have already resolved today quite successfully.
New age transport aeroplatforms could complement the fleet of aircrafts to force and wide the economic potential of global air-transport infrastructure and logistic business. 20 years ago, the “The Economist” magazine made marketing of the airships’ segment and claimed: “According to CargoLifter’s research, the market for such heavy lifting-cargo weighing more than 100 tones and measuring more than 25 meters in any one dimension – is worth $1 billion a year in America alone, and is growing by 12% annually, faster than any other part of the freight market. A study last year suggested that airships could easily capture 10% of this market” *.
That time had been over but we see the interest to the airships is raised, though not with dynamical progress rate as it was claimed on the edge XXI century by the prognoses. According to the newest forecasts by the marketers at Variant Market Research (“Global market of airships and its development forecast for the period 2015-2024 (million dollars)”), the capital capacity of the world airship market will reach $304 million by 2024. The cumulative aggregate gross revenue (CAGR) in 2016 – 2024 is 7.2%. However, the non-officially race of innovative airships’ projects is already gaining momentum in full blast…
Today’s transport heavy-duty airship projects are actively developed in the different countries. The innovative projects like Airlander – 10 (HAV), LMH – 1 (Lockheed Martin), LCA60T (Flying Whale), Varialifter, Voliris (NATAC) and others have been already good known. Hi-tech airship projects the Russian engineers are also developing. Among them: ATLANT, Aerosmena, Aerostatika, DKBA’s LTA concepts. In many ways, such projects are focused on modern technological standards for new century aircraft systems as following: environmental safety, energy efficiency, high profitability during operation, a multi-level security system, and multi-functionality of the flying board.
Imagine that for high-tech airships in the near future will not need a special ground-based infrastructure, and its versatility, reliability and low cost of the flight of production will significantly increase the air-transport traffic by aeroplatforms at altitudes ranging from 1 to 5 km… А range of a continuous flight is 5,000 kilometers or even more. If this is a fantastic picture becomes a reality, then in the agenda is, the day immediately actualized the issue of large-scale development of the Arctic and Africa and Latin Americas and Antarctica, the Asia-Pacific region.
Airship developers are confident that such image is not empty dream but closest perspective for regular reality.
Aeroplatform of tomorrow needn’t the cost of capital-intensive ground-based infrastructure. She will be able to work in frame logistical “the door-to-door” scheme…
And it means new air-transport as aeroplatform concept will be highly competitive and corresponding with actual “green standards” environmental programs.
RUSSIANS PROJECT THE “AEROSMENA” AEROPLATFORM
Trying to keep up with global trends, Russian engineer team of Airship Initiative design bureau Aerosmena (AIDBA) are already proactively offering for investors own the new-generation airship project. That is the line of the multifunctional thermo-ballasting heavy-payload aeroplatforms “Aerosmena”.
The largest airship of the Aerosmena project, which the AIDBA developers call as “atroplatform”, will be able to carry 600 tons payload onboard. The diameter of the envelop of this lenticular airship will be about 220 meters, and the height more than 50 meters. The design of such a “flying saucer” allows you to non-stop cover a distance of 8000 km at a speed of 250 km / h. That is, for one 32-hour flight Washington – Moscow, 5,000 Americans will comfortably make an impressive transcontinental flight, which you can only dream of today.
The history of the Aerosmena project started in 1993 when the famous Russian project “Thermoplan” was launched by the Moscow Aviation Institute engineers team. The 40-meters diameter lenticular shape prototype airship was manufactured in the Ulyanovsk Aviation Plant. However, it could not fly due the poor design solving. During the first field test, this “UFO” aircraft was deformed, and soon after that incident, this project was canceled. However, a number of engineers of the project “Thermoplan” met soon again in 2005 under the project “Locomosky” brand to develop a heavy-airship with a 600 tons payload for delivery of mini-plants for LNG to remote hydrocarbon deposits.
The Locomosky project developers finished R&D, and even tested the “UFO” model in both the TsAGI’s (Central Institute of Aerohydrodynamics in Russia) wind tunnel and using computer simulation in the MAI’s (Moscow Aviation Institute) laboratories. In 2007 and 2009, the lenticular Locomosky airship demonstrators were exhibited at the International Aviation and Space Salon MAKS. Later in 2009, the Russian president at a pecial government meeting in Ulyanovsk called the Locomosky project as promising and brilliant example of innovation. Already in 2010, the Locomosky Co. was recorded bankruptcy so the project stopped again…
Meanwhile, part of the development team has continued to design under head Orfey Kozlov (died under COVID-19 in 2020), the experienced air-space engineer, and his comrade-in-arms Sergei Bendin, aeronautic field marketer and enthusiast of LTA technologies.
The new team had named itself as AIDBA in 2015. The strategy of AIDBA focused on the Aerosmena” multi-functional thermo-ballasting heavy-payload aeroplatforms to provide the competitiveness of current air-transport infrastructure. New commercial sentence was formed by AIDBA in 2016 to get investment for the R&D and manufacturing of the line of cargo airships with the Aerosmena index.
So. The airship A20 was designed as 20 tons payload carrier. Such pioneer aeroplatform is been considerate by «IKBD» as prototype for the next Aerosmena family airships manufacturing. A60 (60 tones payload) is short-haul type of this aircraft class. A200 (200 tones payload) is medium haul aeroplatform. A600 (600 tones payload) – – is long-haul aeroplatform type.
FOUR COHERENT KEYS FOR HI-TECH AIRSHIP CONCEPT
The “Aerosmena” concept is based on the four coherent keys:
- multilevel control smart-system (CSS),
- the wing aerodynamic,
Thermo-ballasting. The lift managing and lowering or the aeroplatform is to be developed by both controlling the heating of air in the internal cavities (the hot-air stream feeds from exhaust of onboard helicopter engines) and the control of the temperature balance into the helium “bags”. Put it otherwise, during the flight any aboard cargo is carried by hot air and engines. The empty airship construction has near “zero buoyancy” due the helium and engines too.
During loading / unloading operations, the hot air temperature is regulated by a CSS. Stabil warm aeroplatform’s envelope allows exclude ice coating and the sediments accumulation.
If such airship has landed (for ex. to park, land operating or the storm period) then CSS makes it as heavier than air, venting the inner hot air into the atmosphere. By the way, the inner hot air does not have a negative impact on the environment. CSS based on high-tech solutions that are used in the actual aerospace industry with a profound adaptation to the aerostatic vehicle. CSS is like alive body, it provides interaction and regulation of different systems for the aimed flight assignment executing.
The aerodynamic processes, power plant regimes, flight information data processing, data analyze of communication equips (GLONASS / GPS, geolocation monitoring complex, weather forecast analyzer, voice and data-commands from the air traffic controllers’ channels), systems of energy, life support and safe — all those are controlled by CSS. Onboard CSS “brain” is defended by good security tools and provided with its circuit/data base backuping. (new word!)
The regulating the engine regimes and the hot-air balance into the internal cavities by CSS is provided the high inflight reliability. If during flight mission strong, wind or dangerous air stream throws aeroplatform off course then CSS commanding to provide the damping this hazard by special engines’ managing options jointly with the hot-air balancing.
Aerodynamics of the wing. Lenticular shape of the hull is meant the excellent aerodynamic quality like a special shape wing. The aeroplatform’s envelope is perfectly flown about at the any direction air-stream. It means such aeroplatform has high maneuverability. The maneuvering “flying saucer” is jointly supporting with all of the flight control factors:
aerodynamic, aerostatic and variable thrust vector. Such flight way allow to develop stability movement in all three axes X, Y, Z – in the positive and negative directions, and also next to these axes. The high maneuverability of such aeroplatform is retained even at zero speed mode and performing aerobatic maneuvers (these options were confirmed by the digital models testing).
Multi-functionality is provided by the rapid changing of functional modules for various specifically tasks. To exchange one module for another it takes to unlock row of block connections on the aeroplatform torus. After the choose module was set it takes to lock all fastening devices onboard. Such operation for the A600 takes about 40-45 minutes.
For A20 – only 15-20 minutes.
…Thus, another functional aeroplatform is ready to fly.
To solve a wide range of transport and logistics problems, projects of modules of various specifications have been developed: for fire extinguishing, for the transport of passengers, for the transportation of large-tonnage cargoes, for rescue operations etc. There are the draft list of the several modules’ specification types below:
– medical outpatient unit;
– cargo compartment with a loader crane;
– flying lounge-tribune for sport/recreation events fans, observers, VIPs.
– passenger compartment;
– passenger compartment;
– mobile workshop repair of heavy equipment;
– local firefighter and rescuer;
– mobile hospital block;
– container shipper;
– module for (solid, liquid, bulk and gaseous) cargoes,
– flying luxury hotel-yacht.
– aerial drone carrier;
– compartments for the transportation of large batches of solid, liquid, bulk and
– complex for construction and installation operations;
– firefight and rescue complex;
– mobile workshop for repairing mining equipment;
– mobile power supply unit;
– flying luxury hotel.
– aero base – as aircrafts / drones carrier;
– cargo tank for heavy weight payload (incl. hanging on the external suspension);
– complex for construction and installation operations;
– fire and rescue complex;
– spacecraft launch pad;
– mobile complete production agriculture cycle enterprise.
For extinguishing large areas or gigantic fires, it is best to use the A60 and A200 aeroplatforms. In special situations, the A600 may be involved (for ex. large square of forest fire).
A200 are able to fill on-board tanks from any body of water reservoir even in hovering mode during 40-60 minutes. Thus, in one voyage it will be possible to kill flame on the 1 ha of forest fire, covering the all area with a 5-centimeter water “layer”. The rapid growth of sea and land container transportation, obviously, will take the intensive implementation of heavy-carrier aeroplatforms.
It should be noted that transportation of the container, like any other payload, on the Aerosmena airship will give the benefit by the cheap cost of traffic, and eliminating additional logistics costs, since cargo can be delivered on a door-to-door scheme — from the sender to the addressee directly without intermediary of other transport and warehouses. Such “UFO” like the Aerosmena aeroplatform is able to serve any cargo container sea-ships at anchorage far away of seashore…
As prospective the implementation of Aerosmena aeroplatform to transport cargo and passengers will certainly influence to reconfigures the global transport and logistics services market, identifying the preventive niches for such promised hi-tech airships. Most likely, such niches will be associated with long-term operations in places remote from economic centers, in large ocean and sea aquatoriums, the wild high-mountain districts. Most likely, the main tasks will be related to the transportation of large-tonnage and super-heavy cargoes, including oversized cargo, as well as cargo-passenger transportation of a charter type.
FUNDING ON START
Single unit construction cost aeroplatform A20 will not exceed $45 – 50 Mill. Single unit cost of construction of such a device in the series will be about $40 million. The cost of building the first version of the A60 could be worth $65 – 70 million. The serial production cost of each unit will be $55 million (with the prospect of cheaper). An experimental copy of the A200 will cost $70-75 million, and for a series – produced airship no more than $60 million for the device (with the prospect of a cheaper price). It will take $100 – 110 million to build the first A600 airship. With serial production, such an aeroplatform will cost $75 million, or slightly cheaper. Information d la c alignment. The cost of the Lockheed C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft program with a carrying capacity of 37 tons was $1.4 billion. The cost of the program for the development and production of an Airbus Beluga XL aircraft with a carrying capacity of 50.5 tons was more than $1.1 billion.
This startup has already attracted attention of some potential customers who would like to purchase “flying saucers” as ready produce, but they refuse entirely to fund the Aerosmena project stages because 3 years of the project development they value today as long-term investment. Let’s imagine ideal situation when business-angel support AIDBA team… This means that since 2024 the first “UFO”-shape Aerosmena aeroplatform will be ready to operation.
…Nevertheless, currently the first prototype manufacturing is already being scheduled by AIDBA team.
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The range of non-stop flight of such new generation airships is from 5000 to 8000 km. Such aeroplatform can bу used as Luxary flying Yacht or Hotel, or pessenger aerotrain…
In the future with the additional modernization of the aeroplatform, the flight speed can be increased to 250 km / h, as well as the altitude ceiling to 15 km (the edge of stratosphere).
Today the Aerosmena’s team is looking for an investor. If the proect’s investment situation develops favorably, the Aerosmena aeroplatform will be able to take to the skies in 3-4 years — i.e. 2024-2025.
There is my brief animation as presentation of this aeroplatform on YouTube:
See several published articles didicated to our project.
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