Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Australian Flying Saucer

Picture Credit: Skylifter

An Australian company named “Skylifter” is developing an aircraft that promises to revolutionize heavy air cargo transportation. According to the manufacturer, the aircraft will be capable of transporting loads that no current airplane or helicopter can carry. The new aircraft, a piloted dirigible, will be able to carry loads of up to 150 tones, of “any shape, [to] any location, [for] any distance”; all that with a minimal environmental footprint and great precision. Just as a comparison, Sikorsky's S-64 Skycrane has a maximum payload of 20,000 lb (9,072 kg), and the Russian Mi-26, the most powerful helicopter ever to have gone into production, can carry no more than 44,090 lb (20,000 kg) cargo. Besides, these helicopters have another disadvantage: the powerful downdraft created by their enormous rotor blades makes it difficult to handle their loads with precision. Some airplanes can carry much more weight. Antonov's An-225 has an incredible payload of 550,000 lb (250,000 kg). Airplanes, however, cannot land everywhere, not to mention the limitations of size and shape of the cargo they are capable of transporting.

PS: In case you are wondering why the Skylifter is discus-shaped, the reason resides in the aerodynamics. Unlike cigar-shaped dirigibles, it is oblivious to the wind direction.

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