May Not be Compatible with Ground Traffic or Security
Craig Neal, a Post Graduate Research Student at UNSW Australia, has authored an interesting article about Lockheed Martin’s innovative cargo airships: The emergence of cargo airships: An opportunity for airports.
The introduction of his thesis includes some excellent perceptions about the current aviation developments:
“The aviation industry is at an interesting turning point with:
- Advances in technology being integrated at a faster rate into every aspect of operations.
- The fast pace emergence of drone technology which is quickly branching out and gathering momentum in operations. Anyone can see the future of aviation is in remotely piloted and or semi/fully autonomous operations: it is a matter of time frames, not if it will happen.
- The renewed focus on the environmental impact of aviation operations due to increased awareness by companies and consumers.
- The ever continuous focus on mode efficiency (e.g. each subsequent aircraft design striving to increase fuel efficiency), however there is only so much incremental evolution that can occur before a revolutionary step change is required.
- The squeeze on infrastructure throughout the world, especially in aviation: will we be able to build airports at every desired location or will we have to consolidate and focus on hubs and utilise secondary ports and other transport modes for further distribution of people and goods?”
And then connects these trends to the cargo airship class:
“All these factors play into the strengths of cargo airships, as:
- Airships offer significantly more cost efficient operations (compared to both rotary and fixed wing aircraft) as the majority of their lift is provided by buoyancy as opposed to powered aerodynamic lift, therefore their fuel burn rates are significantly less.
- They have the potential ability to operate from a number of different bases (e.g. airports, sea ports, and other facilities) given their Vertical Take Off Landing (VTOL) capabilities and ability to land and operate at unprepared surfaces including on sand and water.
- Their potential to integrate effectively with other emerging technologies such as drones, to enhance the capability of both platforms and provide significantly more effective combined services such as search and rescue and disaster response and the warehousing of goods and distribution in high density areas (such as one concept proposed and patented by Amazon).
- Finally they have greater potential to undertake and for the acceptance of, remotely piloted or autonomous operations compared to traditional aircraft and to integrate further advances in environmental efficiency (e.g. integrating solar technology through spray on solar panels on the skin of an airship with batteries and electric diesel engines).
The hybrid is designed to avoid the need of an airport as Lockheed Martin explains:
“With unlimited access to isolated locations around the globe, Hybrid Airships safely and sustainably support a wide range of activities in areas with little to no infrastructure. The airship offers the simplicity of a pickup truck by carrying cargo loads and personnel in and out of remote areas daily, not just certain seasons or only after major road, rail or airport infrastructure is developed.”
The cargo airship does not meet the Ray Kinsella “build it and they will come.” While this versatile vehicle can operate in many environments, its large size may create shadows in radar coverage with the possibility that its skin will block the sweep’s imaging. Even if the LMH-1 and other new HTA airships can anchor their structure to the ground, a jet engine blast from an airplane might test the aircraft’s stability. Finally, as these aerial behemoths prepare to arrive or depart, their largess may disrupt other airport operations—taxiing on the surface and the aerial pattern needed to fly in or fly out. Once ready to accept or disgorge the cargo, the vehicles bringing loads to the HTA airship may not be compatible with the ground traffic or with the security.
Unless the Hybrid Airship operator requires access to an airport and seeks space within the layout, speculative construction of facilities for these new aircraft is not advised.
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