The Hybrid Airship: Lockheed's Latest Advance In Air Freight Tech
By Dan Boaz
Necessity is the mother of invention, and this is never more true than in the air freight industry. Air carriers and the manufacturers who supply them have long struggled to serve inaccessible or underdeveloped regions. Lockheed Martin’s Hybrid Airship offers the flexibility and maneuverability to do just that.The Hybrid Airship combines the lighter-than-air lifting capacity of an airship with an advanced air cushion system. Produced with the same technology used to create hovercrafts, the air cushion system lets the ship launch and land virtually anywhere in the world, even if there is no infrastructure there to receive it. Combined with precise propellors and a fly-by-wire guidance system, this expands the range of locations where it can land and functions that it can perform. Whether it is delivering relief aid to disaster sites, supplying mines or other industrial operations in remote locations, or providing food and medical equipment to low-income countries, the Hybrid Airship is suited to a wide range of tasks that traditional aircraft struggle to perform.
Besides expanding the range of possible air cargo deliveries, the new airship will make difficult deliveries more efficient and sustainable. Traditionally, deliveries in remote and undeveloped areas have required the use of a helicopter or other vehicle that can take off and land vertically. Compared to such vehicles, the Hybrid Airship will only use a tenth of the fuel for every ton of cargo it carries. This will make it significantly less expensive for carriers to supply such locations, allowing them to charge lower prices to consumers, businesses, governments, and charities located there. As a result, a far larger portion of the world’s population will be able to participate in global trade, leading to greater economic development and higher standards of living for all of humanity. Lower fuel use will also help combat climate change and air pollution, further enhancing the benefits for humanity and the earth alike.
The Hybrid Airship’s advances in flexibility, efficiency, and sustainability do not come at the cost of carrying capacity. The craft’s cargo bay is 10 meters long by 10 meters tall by 60 meters wide, and can hold up to 21 metric tons of delivery goods. This puts it on a par with all but the largest cargo planes, making the airship a realistic option for virtually any delivery job.
To make sure that the airship can operate safely and efficiently throughout its life, Lockheed Martin has developed the SPIDER. This maintenance robot moves over the ship’s envelope, looks for pinholes and other small damages, and patches them up before they get out of hand. In this way, the Hybrid Airship upholds the highest standard of safety for its crew and cargo alike.
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