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Sunday, January 15, 2017

Russia is interested in the return of the era of airships

Presentation of the world’s largest aircraft – Airlander 10, which is a hybrid of plane and airship, and once developed for the US army, forced to talk about the return of the era of Zeppelin. Scientific and technological progress really gives them a second chance, and in the revival of the airship particularly interested Russia.

This week the aircraft Airlander 10, which is a hybrid of plane and airship a length of 92 meters, first left the hangar and was introduced to the public in Cardington, County Bedfordshire, UK. Airlander 10 is equipped with gas cylinders filled with helium, which create part of the lift. The unit will be able to stay aloft for up to five days and lift cargo weighing up to 50 tons. According to the British company Hybrid Air Vehicles, flight of the Airlander will be able to develop speed to 160 kilometers per hour, spending 60% less fuel than conventional aircraft.

“The average speed under normal multimodal transportation system using trucks, railroad and ship is 8-10 km/h and average speed of an airship – 100 km/h.”

Airlander 10 was originally developed for the U.S. army, planning to use it for observation from the air. Later, the project was closed due to overall funding cuts, but Hybrid Air Vehicles participating in the project, bought the prototype device and continued independent development of the ship for civilian use. And, as is considered succeeded. Does this mean that the era of airships – the airships, which lasted from the early 1900s to the end of the 1930-ies, can come back? Before answering this question, it is necessary to understand why it ended.

Aircraft-heavy-duty lighter than air was really promising vehicles in the time when the aircraft aircraft still “Opera”, not reaching for the airships nor for duty, nor on the distance and flight duration nor the level of comfort for passengers. As for Maritime transport, and then the Zeppelin was out of competition. Any of them could cross the Atlantic much faster, “Normandy” – the fastest ocean liner of the 1930-ies, designed by an immigrant from Russia, Vladimir Yurkevich.

Technology for their manufacturing and operation of air ships were available to many countries, but the greatest success this area amounted to three – Germany, the USA and the Soviet Union. In the USSR in the years 1932-1940 there was even a company “Dirizhablestroy” and one of the founders of Astronautics Konstantin Tsiolkovsky developed a huge, two and a half times bigger than the Hindenburg all-metal airship. Worked in the Soviet Union and diegabrial famous Italian General Umberto Nobile, included in the history of flight to the North pole (one of them, on the airship “Italy”, ended in 1928 a disaster; in the rescue of the surviving crew members took part Soviet pilots and sailors).

But the planes, at first, stared at the background of the airship with insects, the closer to their passenger and flight parameters gradually signed the airship sentence. Less susceptible to atmospheric vagaries and more manageable than Zeppelin, smaller and faster, they gradually ousted competitors from the sky. A significant role in the decline of the era of airships in 1937 and played a disaster of the largest of them – “Hindenburg”, which showed the unreliability of celestial monsters. At least those of the shell which is filled with hydrogen. In the guise of hydrogen, helium safe, but it is less easy, and most importantly – less readily available. Initially the Hindenburg was designed under helium but the US refused to export the gas to Germany after coming to power of the Nazis forced the makers of the Zeppelin record to fill it with explosive hydrogen, and that ruined the air giant.

After the Second world war airships in a small number remained in military service as an air patrol, particularly in the US, but continuing improvements in aircraft was gradually replaced with airplanes and from military service.

In parallel, in the United States was in decline, and the Railways that has been caused by the highways, road transportation and air transport. However, in the beginning of the XXI century the situation has changed radically. As it turned out, the average cargo structure to carry one ton of cargo a distance of 180 kilometers, it takes only one liter of diesel fuel, whereas the conventional vosemnadcatiletnij the trailer would require for the same work three times more fuel. Amid a sharp rise in price of oil, it was the numbers that did not need to review, and America started a real railroad boom. According to The Washington Post, in 2002, the largest railway company fired 4700 people, in 2006, they employed more than 5,000 employees. Crept up not only the profits, but the shares of these companies between 2003 and 2008, the total profit of railway workers has doubled, and the market value of major companies – Union Pacific Railroad has increased three times.

The same economic factors will contribute to the revival of airships. It is proved that with the use of aircraft will be reduced terms of delivery of cargoes and their safety, in 2-2,5 times reduces the need for storage facilities and TRANS-shipment points (delivery “from door to door”). The airship fuel consumption is 3-4 times less than that of the aircraft, and in the 14-15 times than a helicopter. By calculations of experts of the Russian aeronautical society, the flight time of the airship is 4.6 thousand rubles, helicopters, from 12 to 30 thousand. As a result, the cost of freight airships is comparable with the cost of transportation on a barge, speed 30 km/h current average speed in the conventional mixed system of transportation using truck, rail and ship is 8-10 km/h and average speed of an airship – 100 km/h.

At the same time in a modern urban environment it is difficult to find a place for planting and maintenance of celestial giants, the size of which can reach several hundred meters in length and at least a hundred meters wide. Therefore, of particular interest is the operation of airships in large sparsely populated spaces, such as for example Siberia or the far East. Soviet engineers and designers thought about it in 1970-e years, having developed projects zeppelins carrying up to 120 tons. In conditions of Siberia and the North-East of the country the cost of transportation of goods by airship at the time would have been 3-4 times lower than for transport aircraft. Currently, the development of airships in Russia by CJSC “Aeronautical Center “augur,” has built the airship Au-30, and NGOs “Rosaerosistemy”. And the first Russian unmanned airship was presented to the public about a year ago at MAKS-2015. It is not excluded that such devices will be used, including, for delivery of mail.

Should be taken into account and is much more eco-friendly airships than other types of air transport. Zeppelin will burn considerably less fuel than a plane while transporting the same payload mass for the same distance. Piston or turboprop engines of aircraft giants, working, moreover, at low altitudes of flight, not unlike airplane jet engines to destroy the ozone layer. Finally, the airship as a whole is less noisy than an airplane or helicopter, which will also allow it to fit into the modern industrial environment.

So the factors of economy and ecology return, seemingly forever obsolete airships in the sky, The more that modern advances in science and technology allow us to make airplanes more reliable and easy to operate. Control of airships is difficult because of their large size and sail. However, the system of “flying-by-wire (fly-by-wire) will largely solve this problem. The second challenge relates to gas leakage through the shell, but designed to date, the materials used, for example, to create space suits and even an inflatable space modules, will reduce the loss of gas to almost zero.

The classic airships that dominated the sky until the middle of last century, required the presence of an impressive crew on Board, the size of which sometimes exceeds the total number of passengers. However, the development of computer control systems (already mentioned fly-by-wire) will allow to do just a couple of pilots and maybe one engineer. Finally, strong and lightweight composite materials will significantly increase the structural strength of aircraft while reducing its weight.

People who are accustomed to economic austerity the passenger cabins of modern Airliners, it is hard to imagine the comfort and luxury that prevailed on Board of the Zeppelin 1930-ies. The passengers had individual cabins, restaurant, lounge, boardwalk with a viewing platform from which you can survey the ground from a height of about a kilometer. This means that the giants can be reborn as a heavenly cruise liners. If there were more than 700 people lined 250 thousand dollars for a two hour flight on a suborbital trajectory on the ship company Virgin Galactic, there is no doubt that heavenly Airliners that cruise the flights, will never be capable of cruising half empty.

Incidentally, the world sailing is a good example which should encourage creators of future cruise of Zeppelin. In the middle of the last century it was believed that the days of the liners “Titanic”, “Lusitania” or “Normandy” are gone forever. But these days, the oceans roam where large vessels Oasis of the Seas or Allure of the Seas. And it is possible that the hour is not far when modern cruise airships will carry its passengers to the fifth waves of the ocean as well, as did Zeppelin in the 30-ies of the last century.

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