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Aerospace Disaster relief blimps: case made

  1. Jan 4, 2005 #1
    We're hearing all those reports about the difficulties of getting stuff to the disaster strucken areas in Aceh.

    -They need helicopters because the roads are damaged
    -The main runway for airplanes was closed yesterday because of an accident, making the logistical nightmare even bigger
    -Egeland called for "ships on which helicopters can land" etc...

    Isn't it about time that we seriously reconsider building cargo blimps?

    These things can land nearly anywhere, are much cheaper to operate than helicopters (per ton lifted), and they are not dependent on other infrastructural chains.

    Does anyone know of any companies creating such heavy lift blimps? After everything we've seen in South Asia, the case for such airships has now obviously been made.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 4, 2005 #2
    Why don't people build blimps...

    Well, there are two big reasons...

    1) The Hindenberg disaster is still the most common thing people think of when you say the word "blimp" (except maybe Goodyear tires). It may sound stupid, but to this day people in the US do not trust nuclear power due to Three Mile Island.

    2) There are HUGE upfront costs associated with building a blimp, primarily in building the blimp hangar. Take a look at this story: CargoLifter Belly Up.

    I for one would love to see blimps in common use. Here are some ideas I've had:

    - heavy lift cargo transport
    - airborne luxury cruise liners
    - highway accident wreckage removal (think of never having to sit HOURS in traffic because of a 30 car pile-up)
    - highway distressed driver assistance (flying tow-truck / maintenance garage)

    What does everybody think?

  4. Jan 4, 2005 #3
    I heard somewhere that the Russians are building a large cargo lighter than air ship.

  5. Jan 5, 2005 #4


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    I worked very briefly on a subcontract to CargoLifter. The amount of helium they needed was enormous, and would have cost many millions of dollars. Helium is becoming a scarce commodity and costs are rising fast. In addition, Cargolifter required some way of purifying the helium in the blimps. The membrane is permeable, so you loose helium all the time, and air gets in or must be pumped in to maintain the structure.

    Regardless of those issues, I think CargoLifter was simply not cost effective overall. Their big sales point was the ability to move super large equipment, such as chemical processing columns, to different points on the globe. And there simply isn't enough business like that out there to support it.
  6. Jan 5, 2005 #5


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    "These things can land nearly anywhere."

    Is that really a valid statement? From what I have seen of blimps back in their heyday, they had limitations on where they landed just like most airplanes.

    All personal interests aside, I think heavy lift helicopters are the perfect answer for what needs to be done there.
  7. Jan 5, 2005 #6
    Sure, new blimp concepts can land anywhere.

    For those who're interested, this company seems to be on the brink of delivering.

    Check them out, they're really cool:


    They claim to be significantly cheaper than heavy lift helicopters.

    Also check their section on disaster relief, with artist renderings:

    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 21, 2017
  8. Jan 6, 2005 #7


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    "The SkyCat-20 offers the ideal solution to the vital need for a high-endurance, low-cost and versatile airborne platform for missions such as border control, counter-drug operations, coastguard search and rescue, harbour traffic monitoring and police surveillance – as well as civil uses such as surveillance of gas and oil pipelines."

    I agree that a blimp or similar ship is ideally suited for these kinds of operations...with one very large caveat: in good weather. You are not going to get these aircraft operating in mountainous regions or areas that are prone to storms of any kind. I looked through that web site and saw nothing regarding it's weather capabilities.

    There is definitely a niche for these aircraft.
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