Lighter than air, less polluting than airplanes, solar blimps and dirigibles have become major focus of both military and civilian contractors.
A few weeks ago, we published an article about the future of transportation in the U.S. as part of our ongoing Celestia project. One feature that got a lot of attention (and some criticism) was the inclusion of a solar airship--as a green alternative to the modern jetliner.
By Air and By Sea. The Canadian-designed SkyFreighter Airship is designed to land at sea. It has some impressive stats: Full Stats HERE
But already, our "fantasy" vehicle is becoming reality. Unfortunately, some of the best funded (by taxpayer money) research is being carried out by companies such as Lockheed Martin--which tend to operate without a moral compass (They have a long history of building land mines and cluster bombs.) We can only hope that, like the Internet, military airship research paid for by our tax dollars eventually falls into public purview.
As greendiary.com notes: "Lockheed Martin has been given a $400 million contract to design, build, test and fly a 1:3 scale model of an airship surveillance and telecommunications platform called the High Altitude Airship (HAA). The un-tethered geostationary airship will be filled with helium to enable it to patrol the skies from the jet stream, which is about 21km from the surface of the Earth. If the tests are successful, the company will develop the full-scale airship, which will be powered by a 15KW solar array mounted on its roof. The solar generators will power all onboard systems and also recharge a 40KWh Li-ion battery pack used to power its 2KW lightweight all-electric propulsion system."
In what may be a silver lining for civilian use of airships, military contractors are having trouble cramming all of the spy equipment and "stealth" features the military would like into airships, so some of their various expensive airship programs are floundering. Maybe they'll give up and hand over their half-finished prototypes to smart entrepeneurs.
Recent innovations in solar pv technology may bring the dirigible prototypes much closer to commercial readiness, because they allow for lighter, cheaper solar panels and even paint-on solar materials.
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