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Not Dead Yet: What If the Navy Revived Flying Aircraft Carriers?

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March 13, 2020 – The U.S. Navy should consider reviving a concept that died a catastrophic death in the 1930s, one journalist recommended in the pages of Proceedings, the professional journal of the U.S. Naval Institute.

Kyle Mizokami argued that the American fleet should look into large airships as carriers for unmanned aerial vehicles, in essence updating the fleet’s costly experimentation with Akron-class airships more than 80 years ago. Airships could complement multi-billion-dollar aircraft carriers.

“The necessary technology already exists for unmanned airships to team up with UAVs to provide modern-day equivalents of the Akron-class airships,” Mizokami wrote.

Read more at: https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/not-dead-yet-what-if-navy-revived-flying-aircraft-carriers-132957

Australia reaches breakthrough deal to buy US emergency oil supplies

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March 8, 2020 – London and Washington: The Morrison government has struck a landmark deal to tap into the US government’s tightly-guarded emergency fuel reserves, a move that will help lower the risk of Australia plunging into an economic and national security crisis.

The agreement, to be signed by Energy Minister Angus Taylor in Washington on Monday (Tuesday AEDT), will help shore up the dangerously low supplies in Australia that have left consumers vulnerable to price spikes and rationing in the event of a sudden supply disruption.

The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age revealed last year that the government was in talks with the Trump administration to buy millions of barrels of oil from the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

Australia imports 90 per cent of its liquid fuels but only has enough in storage to last 54 days – well below the 90 days it is obliged to stockpile under an agreement with the International Energy Agency (IEA).

READ MORE: https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/australia-reaches-breakthrough-deal-to-buy-us-emergency-oil-supplies-20200307-p547t1.html

The Age of the Airship May Be Dawning Again

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February 29, 2020 — Dirigibles ruled the skies once. Can they make a comeback? You might think that the tragic end of the Hindenburg disaster in 1937 marked a clear end to the airship era. The famous footage of the German airship plunging in flames became the overwhelming image of a seemingly doomed technology.

You would be wrong.

For decades, the Goodyear fleet of blimps have been the only working airships most people had a chance of seeing in real life. But a handful of companies are looking to bring back the spectacular dirigibles.

The government of Quebec will be pitching 30 million Canadian dollars (23 million in U.S. dollars) to Flying Whales, a French company, to start building its massive zeppelins. The company has only been around since 2012, and it hasn’t gotten any of its airships off the ground—yet. The plan has been derided by opposition parties, not as a flying whale but as a white elephant.

READ MORE: https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/02/29/blimps-hindenburg-flying-whales-airships/

Planes Are Ruining the Planet. New, Mighty Airships Won’t.

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November 14, 2019 –  Some scientists are serious about resurrecting zeppelins for low-carbon travel.

This August, Greta Thunberg sailed across the Atlantic in a zero-emission sailboat to protest the high carbon footprint of plane travel. But there’s good reason to think she may someday travel to climate protests via airship — the same giant aircraft, buoyed by gas-filled balloons, that were popular in the early 20th century. Faster than cargo ships and able to alight inland as well as on a beach, many airships, also known as dirigibles, have fewer emissions than boats, and all are much more carbon efficient than planes.

While interest in early dirigibles waned after they proved too slow and, occasionally, too dangerous, climate change is making plane travel increasingly contentious. Now some scientists are considering airships as a serious transportation solution.

Unlike planes, airships don’t need to burn much fuel to take off and propel themselves. Because they move more slowly than planes, they’re being eyed as a much more carbon-efficient way to move air cargo, which is set to triple in the coming decades, according to the International Air Cargo Association. “An airship produces 80% to 90% fewer emissions than conventional aircraft,” said Jean Baptiste Meusnier, spokesperson for the International Air Transport Association.

READ MORE: https://onezero.medium.com/planes-are-ruining-the-planet-new-mighty-airships-wont-d8eb39418acc

How airships could return to our crowded skies

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November 8, 2019 – Airships lost out to conventional aircraft after a series of disastrous crashes. But now safer technology could be the key to their return.

Zeppelins fill the skies of Philip Pullman’s epic trilogy of fantasy novels, His Dark Materials. The giant airships of his parallel universe carry the mail, transport soldiers into battle and explorers to the Arctic. What was once my local post office in Oxford is in Pullman’s fantasy – a zeppelin station where I could catch the evening airship to London.

When I put the books down the reality is rather disappointing. A handful of smaller airships can be found flying proudly across the United States on promotional tours for brands like Goodyear and Carnival Cruise Line. Last year, a blimp demeaned itself by setting two world records, including one for the fastest text on a touch screen mobile phone while water skiing behind a blimp. A few more are employed to fly well-heeled tourists on sight-seeing trips over the German countryside. Another can be found flying over the Amazon. And that’s about it.

READ MORE: https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20191107-how-airships-could-return-to-our-crowded-skies

Zeppelins could make a comeback with this solar-powered airship cargo mover

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October 8, 2019 – Zeppelins, the rigid airships most famously epitomized by the Hindenburg, now seem kind of retro, rather than the image of futurity they represented in the 1930s. But they could be about to make a comeback in a big way — courtesy of a new aluminum-shelled, solar-powered airship that’s being built by the U.K.-based company Varialift Airships.

According to the company’s CEO Alan Handley, the airship will be capable of making a transatlantic flight from the United Kingdom to the United States, consuming just 8% of the fuel of a regular airplane. It will be powered by a pair of solar-powered engines and two conventional jet engines.

While its lack of onboard battery would limit travel to daylight hours, and its speed will only be approximately half that of a Boeing 747, the Varialift airship does promise to be a useful cargo carrier. Its creators claim that it will be able to carry loads ranging from 50 to 250 tons. Larger models with payloads up to 3,000 tons aren’t out of the question either. Bulky cargo such as electricity pylons, wind turbine blades, and towers, or even prefabricated structures such as oil rigs could be carried underneath using cables. That means that cargo will have a weight limit, but no practical size limit.

READ MORE: https://www.digitaltrends.com/cool-tech/varialift-airships-solar-powered-airship/

A Rocket-Fuel Additive Could Be the Next Great Power Breakthrough

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September 9, 2019 – Aluminum hydride promises to make nonpolluting fuel cells far safer and more powerful.

The promise of fuel cells — add hydrogen and oxygen, get water and electricity — has long been muted by the difficulty of moving and storing the universe’s lightest element as a liquid or a gas. But researchers funded by the U.S. Army say a powdery hydrogen compound once studied as a rocket-fuel additive may be the stable, energy-dense key to unlocking a wide new range of power-hungry applications, from exoskeletons to underwater drones to electric vehicles — if the U.S. can produce enough of it.

Alternative-energy enthusiasts will recall how GM and other automakers hyped fuel cells in the 2000s, a promised revolution that never took off. Compressed-gas and liquid hydrogen were never cost-effective to produce at scale, and they can be volatile; June alone saw fires at a California plant and a Norwegian refueling facility. There are ways to reduce the danger with stronger, heavier storage tanks. But that adds cost, weight, and complexity.

Enter aluminum hydride — also AIH3 or Alane — a combination of three hydrogen atoms and one aluminum atom originally developed in the 1970s as a potential additive to rocket fuel. Looking a lot like baby powder, it’s much easier to transport and use than compressed gaseous or liquid hydrogen. The energy density is also far greater. Kristopher Lichter, CEO of San Francisco-based Ardica Technologies, which makes fuel cells that run on Alane, describes it as “four times as energy dense as gaseous hydrogen…but [with] none of the problems handling.” It doesn’t require special tanker trucks or pipelines. Instead, the powder goes into a cartridge, which when heated in a fuel cell, releases gaseous hydrogen for use in generating electricity.

READ MORE: https://www.defenseone.com/technology/2019/09/rocket-fuel-additive-could-be-next-great-power-breakthrough/159749/?oref=d-river

Airship Innovation: Lighter-Than-Air Aircrafts

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July 7, 2019 – The dream of lighter-than-air travel continues with crafts such as the Phoenix, and the “big bum” – the Airlander 10.

You’re having a dream where you’re floating noiselessly over a landscape looking down. For most of us, it’s just a dream, but for a lucky few who have flown in a lighter-than-air aircraft, it’s a reality.

There are multiple types of lighter-than-air aircraft:

  • Airship – any powered, steerable aircraft that it is inflated with a gas that is lighter than air
  • Dirigible – synonymous with an airship, it is any lighter-than-air craft that is powered and steerable; from the French verb diriger, “to steer”
  • Blimp – a powered, steerable, lighter-than-air vehicle whose shape is maintained by the pressure of the gases within its envelope
  • Rigid Airship – has a framework surrounding one or more individual gas cells, and the framework determines its shape
  • Zeppelin – a rigid airship that is manufactured by the Luftschiffbau Zeppelin company of Germany which was founded by Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin who is considered the father of the rigid airship
  • Semi-Rigid Airship – like a blimp, it maintains its aerodynamic shape from internal gas pressure, but it has a partial rigid frame which supports and distributes loads
  • Hybrid Airship – a powered aircraft that obtains some of its lift as a lighter-than-air (LTA) airship and some from aerodynamic lift as a heavier-than-air aerodyne

READ MORE: https://interestingengineering.com/airship-innovation-lighter-than-air-aircrafts

‘Lighter-than-air’ aircraft has first test flight

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April 25, 2019 (CNN) — An innovative aircraft that turns into a “lighter-than-air” balloon to propel itself forward has been flown for the first time.

The Phoenix is designed to repeatedly switch between being lighter and heavier than air to generate thrust and allow it to stay in the skies indefinitely. Officially known as an “ultra-long endurance autonomous aircraft,” it was developed by scientists in Scotland and flown over a distance of 120 meters (394 feet) during its first test flight in March. Arts festivals all over Japan are helping to change local communities for the better, bringing new people, ideas, and ways to make a living.

Officially known as an “ultra-long endurance autonomous aircraft,” it was developed by scientists in Scotland and flown over a distance of 120 meters (394 feet) during its first test flight in March.

READ MORE: https://edition.cnn.com/travel/article/phoenix-aircraft-test-flight-scli-gbr-intl/index.html

Filling the Friendly Skies With Hot Air

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March 19, 2019 – When a massive helium-filled airship designed by Flying Whales, a French manufacturer, takes to the air for the first time in 2021, it won’t be against the backdrop of the Eiffel Tower. Instead, it’ll probably fly over Jingmen, a dusty farm and industrial town in central China where Flying Whales and state-owned China Aviation Industry General Aircraft Co., Ltd. (CAIGA) recently announced they’re planning to build an airship assembly line. Production should start in 2022 and could result in dozens of the giant ships — each twice as long as a Boeing Co. 747 – floating around the world.

READ MORE: https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2019-03-10/china-s-hoping-airships-will-revolutionize-air-transport