• Oct 22, 2011
By crossing airships with airplanes, Solar Ship is creating craft that can carry heavy loads long distances with a tiny carbon footprint. Filled with helium, they soak up rays from the sun to provide the energy for forward motion and fulfill its original design challenge – carry 1,000 kilograms (2,205 lbs) of payload 1,000 kilometers (621.4 miles).

The company says it has recently completed and flown its first prototype and plans a three-strong range with both solar-only and hybrid models. From the 150 kg-capable (330.7 lbs) sun-powered Caracal, to the range-extended, mothership-sized Nanuq with the ability to haul 30 metric tons (66,139 lbs), the Canadian firm envisions its flying machines doing tasks as diverse as hauling humanitarian relief to moving payloads for mining operations in remote locations.

Though public demonstration of the heavier-than-air craft will only occur sometime in the summer of 2013, you can get a preview of the company's aeronautical vision in the promotional video after the break.



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  • 43 Comments
      • 3 Years Ago
      The obvious problem with using hydrogen instead of helium was discovered by the Hindinburg. Hydrogen go BOOM! A spark caused by static electricity (often caused by the air flow against the hull), lightning, an electrical short, or whatever can cause a disaster. Of course, you can take as many precautions as possible, but the bottom line is, if you have a big ballon filled with H2, you are riding around in a big bomb. BTW, helium can be extracted from the air. It is just a LOT more expensive than mining it. I do agree that we should be conserving it for important projects and not frittering it away in children's ballons. Of course, replacing He with H2 in children's ballon's is a major safety hazard. Where to you have the most ballons? Birthday parties. What else do you have at birthday parties? Candles. A few badly scorched kids would put a damper on that idea in a hurry.
        DaveMart
        • 3 Years Ago
        It may be possible to extract helium from the air, but it only got there presumably by being released as a by-product of natural gas release. It also does not hang around there long, as it does not form compounds readily and being very light rises to the top of the atmosphere where it is stripped away by the solar wind. It is one of the few resources which when it is gone is really gone, and it is invaluable in some applications such as medical equipment. The dangers of hydrogen are much exaggerated.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Oops, my fault for not reading closely. I see they do have a hybrid version.
      Marco Polo
      • 3 Years Ago
      What a terrific development. I have always been fascinated by Airships, and can think of a million commercial uses for such patient, devices capable of eliminating the need for expensive and often environmentally harmful surface transport infrastructure! Very exciting stuff!
        Marco Polo
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Marco Polo
        After re-watching the video, I wonder what the estimated price of such airships would be, and what sort of operation licence is needed, also could they be easily stored on board a ship? Oh, and can the polar bears fly as well as they drive Prius?
      • 3 Years Ago
      there was a plan for this in Germany, the project was called the CargoLifter, for 160 tons. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CargoLifter Why they failed? What happens to a lighter-than-air object floatin in the air that drops 160? It becomes a rocket ..
      • 3 Years Ago
      But before you get too excited about this, wait to see some actual test flights. Humans have known how to build buoyancy asisted aircraft for nearly a century, and there are good reasons they are not in widespread use. It takes a huge volume of helium to support much weight. If you then rely on aerodynamic forces on the body to produce additional lift, you end up with a situation where high winds and atmospheric turbulence are big problems. Making this work in anything except ideal circumstances is going to be tough.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Definitely something to follow. Zeppelins and other airships in earlier history were abandoned due to the danger and high maintenance costs, but they can be further developed with current technology. They might even make commercial flights using these types of vehicles, but I wonder about the safety features. Juan Miguel Ruiz (GreenJoyment.com)
        porosavuporo
        • 3 Years Ago
        The combination of lifting gas and the lifting body shape here is a really cool concept. Especially if the body shape is not 100% rigid, but can be morphed to a slightly different wing profiles while in flight, it would enable some really awesome flight envelope possibilities.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Reminds me of the Aereon, as told by John McPhee in his book, The Deltoid Pumpkin Seed. http://www.amazon.com/Deltoid-Pumpkin-Seed-John-McPhee/dp/0374516359
      Dan Frederiksen
      • 3 Years Ago
      lighter than air vehicles seem too fragile and impractical.
        porosavuporo
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Dan Frederiksen
        Once again Dan you are here to demonstrate not just your total ignorance, but also a basic lack of reading comprehension. Why do you insist on making a total clown of yourself time and again ? The craft, as it says in the article in plain english, is heavier than air. Did you even ponder why is it shaped as a delta wing lifting body ?
        EZEE
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Dan Frederiksen
        Oh the humanity!
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Dan Frederiksen
        I think the point Dan is trying to make is that this aircraft is a good idea precisely because it bypasses the negatives inherent in lighter-than-air-vehicles while still employing some of the benefits commonly associated with lighter-than-air-vehicles...all in a heavier-than-air-vehicle. If this is true, porosavuporo who is demonstrating "total ignorance".
          Dan Frederiksen
          • 3 Years Ago
          no, actually I didn't bother reading the details. adding some aerodynamic lift to the airship is an improvement but I think it's still too impractical and fragile. it works on a planet where the weather is always nice and nothing scratches the helium filled lighter than air balloon.
          EZEE
          • 3 Years Ago
          Laughing at the -5 on Dan's post. You may disagree with Dan - but, the concerns are valid. What is the wind speed one of these can take? Storms come up quickly in Florida, for example in the summer - very quickly. We literally will have rain on one side of a street and not another. We shouldn't vote down Dan just cause he's Dan...he has actually been quite reasonable lately - and I don't say that with sarcasm. Don't get me wrong - these would be nifty to see flying. Having helium provide the majority of the lift does present a pile of advantages, but Dan's concerns are what have been concerns of this mode of travel since they first came up with it.
      imoore
      • 3 Years Ago
      I'm guessing this means an end to ice road trucking in Canada and northern Europe.
        Chris M
        • 3 Years Ago
        @imoore
        Maybe. It does have excellent load hauling, and is very economical. However, they're unlikely to fly in bad weather.
      • 2 Years Ago
      First of all, about H2, it was used extensively from 1928 til the Hindenburg accident which was caused partly by human error. He could have waited before trying to dock just like airplanes are holding in the sky , waiting for the storms to pass by. Correct me if i'm wrong, but the zeppelin did over 600 oceanic crossings before the accident... They even had a smoking room in the Zeppelin and the Hindenburg; and electric cookstove and HF radios, etc... And can you tell me how many airplane accidents filled with gaz and jet fuel have crashed and burned for the last 50 years ? H2, when used in a secure way, is no more dangerous than avgaz of jet fuel. I have personnaly worked in the weather dept in Northern Canada for 10 years, filling our large balloons with H2 which we produced ourselves by electrolysis. I think it is time to rehabilitate H2. It is time to eliminate so many misconceptions. With today's weather data, the airship pilot can choose the best altitudes to avoid headwinds and with radar and windshear detection equipment, they can avoid disasters which plagued the US airships. With today's carbon fiber, kevlar, solar cells, small APU,s , I believe in a new golden age for airships is knocking at our doors. Beeing an A-330 pilot myself, my dream would be to pilot this new generation of H2 ships across the globe. No need for speed. Cruise ships have a 18 knots top speed like ocean cargo ships. They also have to go around typhoons. Whether you fly an airplane or airship, you're still submitted to the law of physics... Any more doubts ?
      • 3 Years Ago
      I think most people are thinking the same thing.......how can this ever be reliable enough for practical use? Why don't they consider having a small amount of liquid hydrogen on board as a backup power source? Maybe the solar panels could crank that out as well. Because you know eventually this jalopy will unexpectedly run out of juice at the most inopportune time, and it will need that quick power to do an emergency landing.
      • 3 Years Ago
      @Eric Brilliant idea Eric! Lets also replace He with H in children's balloons, since its such a stupid way to use the Helium?! Amount of He used in airship prototypes is negligible, even compared to children's balloons. Of course airships will switch from He to H; once the development is done, the operational confidence is built up, and there's enough experience with Hydrogen in these modern-tech airships. I am sure airship builders would welcome the chance to introduce Hydro (I certainly would/am), for it siginificantly affects the business model, but it must be done responsibly.
        EZEE
        • 3 Years Ago
        Don't we have a stockpile of Helium in the USA? I know some on the right criticize spending the money to keep it around, but last I heard, we do have it. Correct me if I am wrong, please (notice I criticized the right....eh....eh...?).
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