While hoping to go beyond the modern day helicopter’s limited load-bearing capacity, Australian firm SkyLifter is busy evolving a solar-powered airship for carrying up to 150-ton loads more than 1,200 miles. Just the perfect machine to support disaster relief operations, the solar blimp could ship payloads of equipment, freight, pre-constructed buildings and other loads at a speed of 45 knots (50 mph).
Where the vehicle’s disc-like shape offers immunity against different wind conditions, the specially designed Voith-Schneider propellers (measuring 500ft across) and strategically placed cockpit help the vehicle in keeping steady. Aside from using it for disaster relief, the developers hope to use the vehicle as luxury airborne cruise ships.
SkyLifter uses (bio)diesel fuel and solar collectors to generate electricity that powers the cycloidal propellers and aircraft systems. Sun-facing aerostar design offers ample space for large arrays of solar collectors. One level of the pod contains (bio)diesel engines, drive-train and water recovery systems. So flaunting a minimal environmental footprint, the aerial crane keeps delivering the goods without noise.
Skylifter looks forward to release a full-sized prototype, nearly 150ft wide, in three years or so.