H2 Clipper, Inc. Chief Executive Officer Bob Colucci, a 1987 Financial Management graduate of Naval Postgraduate School (NPS), and the Founder of the company, Rinaldo Brutoco, recently engaged NPS faculty and researchers in a dialogue to cultivate student theses topics of interest in the field of hydrogen-powered, long-range dirigibles.
These two evangelists of Lighter-Than-Air technology have been calling for alternative energy solutions for several years now and have designed what they believe is a viable transport vehicle that calls for nothing short of saving the U.S. economy. “We have to innovate in order to free ourselves from our dependence on oil,” stresses Brutoco, who co-authored a leading book on energy, Freedom from Mid-East Oil.
Hydrogen generation is nothing new on the block, but within the paradigm of mass production of a fleet of airships—which use hydrogen’s lifting capability and current jet and rocket technologies for forward motion—the sky (actually 75,000 ft.) is the limit. “The ability to mass produce the delivery system is the key,” says Brutoco, a futurist and company visionary who takes Henry Ford’s automobile assembly line production to heart.
Colucci and Brutoco note that major auto manufacturers are marketing hydrogen vehicles, and hope that the industry partners with the company to build the next generation in transport vehicles to bring the hydrogen energy paradigm to fruition. “Getting the hydrogen to market is the ultimate goal,” adds Colucci. “Hydrogen as an energy source is the most abundant element in the universe. We are surrounded by it.”
The H2 Clipper, a proprietary design, could be ready for wind tunnel testing in about two years. The ship’s skeletal structure and teflon-coated, Kevlar skin components are completely scalable, meaning the same interlocking triangular framework could be used in the 1,000-foot version (similar in size to the old USS Macon) and a smaller 200-foot sized version.
Off-the-shelf General Electric aircraft engines for standard altitudes and the use of hydrazine rocket engines to work in thin-to-no air environments make the craft a true high-altitude, long-endurance platform that is in line with the military’s “soft power” strategy. The company leaders state that the H2 Clipper touts airspeeds of 350 mph, a cargo lift capacity of 200,000 pounds and a range of 3,500 miles. They discussed the potential commercial and military applications for this kind of manned and unmanned craft, including manned airships that could reduce the costs of conventional air operations.