Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

LNT – Is this the right way to use lighter-than-air craft?

My engineering heart always sinks whenever I see some great new announcement proclaiming that someone has had a brilliant bright idea, and that they’re resurrecting the airship in some way.

The last revelation was Airlander 10, but like most of these giants, it ended up having an accident.

Since day one of this, I always pointed out that if the military (with its budget) didn’t think they could make it work, and dumped it, its chances of civilian success were slim to nil.

Airlander 10 crash-landed after mooring line snagged power cables

I’m willing to go out on a bit of limb and suggest that, with current technology at least, basic physics means that these giants are doomed from the day they are conceived.

I don’t know where the borderline lies, but the basic flaw is that their propulsion systems are limited in relation to their size.

While there is a practical limit to the force they can exert on a relative small amount of air, and impart a controlling force to the craft, as they get bigger and bigger their area (and volume rise rapidly, meaning that the effects of wind and buoyancy rise faster than any of the controlling forces available to the pilot.

The bigger the get, the slower they get, and also the lower the wind speed they can legitimately operate in.

While the financial rewards for smaller craft are less attractive for the big monsters, I’d always maintained they could be more successful if anyone dared downsize developments, instead of continually trying to make these things ever bigger.

It’s almost as if the first thing those involved do is throw all thoughts of ‘Commin Sense’ out the door.

Now, it seems someone has taken that step, and I’ll be interested to see if progress of these smaller craft leave the big monsters in its wake.

Researchers from the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) have helped create a revolutionary new type of aircraft.

Phoenix is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) designed to stay in the air indefinitely using a new type of propulsion.

Despite being 15m (50ft) long with a mass of 120kg (19 stone) she rises gracefully into the air.

She looks a little like an airship, except airships don’t have wings.

“It’s a proper aeroplane,” says the UHI’s Professor Andrew Rae.

As the project’s chief engineer, he has overseen the integration of Phoenix’s systems.

“It flies under its own propulsion although it has no engines,” he says.

“The central fuselage is filled with helium, which makes it buoyant so it can ascend like a balloon.

“And inside that there’s another bag with compressors on it that brings air from outside, compresses the air, which makes the aeroplane heavier and then it descends like a glider.”

New aircraft rises ‘like a balloon’

First lighter-than-air aircraft I’ve come across in years that hasn’t made me say “Oh no” at first sight.

UHI Phoenix Via BBC

UHI Phoenix Via BBC

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23/04/2019 - Posted by | Aviation, Civilian, Transport | ,

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