A cargo airship currently undergoing tests at a military base in California could one day carry payloads of up to 500 tonnes in combat theaters or humanitarian roles, believes developer Worldwide Aeros.
The U.S. Dept. of Defense and NASA have so far invested $35 million in the prototype Aeroscraft, which saw its first flight test in January at the Marine Corps Air Station in Tustin. The company, which already produces airships for advertising and broadcast camera work, surveillance and for carrying scientific equipment, needs more cash to conduct further trials on a commercial cargo carrier.
The Aeroscraft has a carbon fiber and aluminum frame covered with a Mylar polyester film skin. Internal helium-filled balloons provide lift and buoyancy can be adjusted, in the same way as a submarine, to set the craft down for landing and unloading.
Although the prototype is not designed to carry cargo, Aeros next aims to build a 150-metre-long version that could lift 60 tonnes.