After a 70-year absence, it appears that a new rigid frame airship will soon be taking to the skies over California. Aeros Corporation, a company based near San Diego, has received experimental airworthiness certification from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to begin flight testing the Aeroscraft airship, and it appears that the company has wasted no time getting started. This fully rigid airship, dubbed the Aeroscraft.The Aeroscraft has been under development by Aeros Corp, since 2006, and the US Government has contributed some $35M for research, along with expertise in aerodynamics and control systems from NASA. The Aeroscraft's is made of aluminum and carbon fiber—and maintains its buoyancy with a series of gas-filled bladders. And unlike hybrid airships, the Aeroscraft doesn't require forward momentum to generate lift via a set of wings. It's all helium power. At 266 feet long and 97 feet wide, the Pelican prototype is just about half the size of what a full-scale Aeroscraft will be. If completed the Aeroscraft will measure more than 400 feet long and be capable of lifting 66 tons or more. The Aeroscraft is equipped with a series of pressurized helium tanks. When the pilot wants to increase altitude, non-flammable helium is released from the tanks through a series of pipes and control valves, into internal gas-bladders called helium pressure envelopes (HPEs). This increases the amount of lift the helium generates, reduces the craft's static heaviness, and allows it to rise. When the pilot wants to descend, the process is reversed. This allows the Aeroscraft to easily land and take on cargo or passengers without having to be tied down or add external ballast. Additionally, the Aeroscraft will be equipped with a trio of engines—one on each side and a third on the belly—and six turbofan engines to provide thrust and augment the COSH's lift, as well as aerodynamic tail-fin rudders and stumpy wing control surfaces, for high speed travel—that is, above 20 mph.
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