Dynalifter Prototype Ready For Flight
The Dynalifter, a hybrid helium gas / gasoline-powered engine craft, is getting closer to reality. Bob Rist and Brian Martin will fly a prototype (the 2,200 pound Dynalifter Patroller) this spring.
(Dynalifter prototype unveiled)
The unique design uses helium to achieve 50 percent of its lift; the remaining lift will be from four wings and propellers. Inside the prototype is an aluminum spine running its length and two patented tower-like structures that support the spine, wings, gas-powered engines, cockpit, and landing gear, and lend stability to the design.
Helium stored in bags use up one third of the interior; a two-person cockpit is attached to the bottom. Larger Dynalifters will have holds for cargo. The Dynalifter Heavy Freighter will carry 160 tons of payload and travel at up to 100 miles per hour.
Part blimp and part dirigible, the Dynalifter has something extra - it will achieve lift like an ultralight craft or a Piper Cub airplane. It can take off and land in short distances - 4,000 feet - without ground crews used by blimps and dirigibles.
Science fiction authors have been thinking about ships like this for more than a century. In his 1893 novel The Angel of the Revolution, George Griffith wrote about war-balloons used to transport heavy loads of war materiel.
Writer Jerry Pournelle wrote about a heavy lifter called Skyhook in his 1976 novel West of Honor:
The choppers settled onto the bags. Up on top the helicopter crews were floundering around on the billowing stuff to make certain the fastenings were set right...
The troops outside were grinning at us as they cut loose the tethers holding the balloons. Nothing happened, of course; the idea of Skyhook is to have almost neutral buoyancy, so that the lift from the gas bags just balances the weight of the load.
(Read more about Jerry Pournelle's Skyhook)
Be sure to check out a similar craft in DARPA's Walrus and Griffith's War-Balloons. Read more in Following Wright Footsteps and Reaching for an airship revival. Thanks to Winchell Chung for the extra sf tips on this story.
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 1/5/2006)
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