Forgot your password?
typodupeerror

New Type of Hot Air Blimp 152

Posted by kdawson
from the still-waiting-for-the-rocket-car dept.
An anonymous reader writes to let un know about a story up on the Experimental Aircraft Association site about a new kind of blimp. From the article: "Alberto, whose name pays homage to Brazilian aviation pioneer, Alberto Santos-Dumont, is 102 feet long with a 70-foot diameter and uses hot air rather than helium for lift. Its innovative foldable frame (much like an giant umbrella) creates structural support of its hot-air envelope, and it has a fly-by-wire vectored thrust steering system. Alberto is a hybrid; a hot-air balloon with aluminum ribs that looks more like a blimp, but with a tail propeller that gives it directional control." The home site of the blimp's developers has a timeline, photos, and a video of the blimp in flight.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

New Type of Hot Air Blimp

Comments Filter:
  • you couldn't pay me to go up in one - irrational fear of heights - but it seems better than being in a balloon with no real control of your direction beyond finding some wind blowing the way you want to go.
    • Acrophobia here too. Although airplanes don't bother me at all. Maybe I'd go up in one of those things if they put fiberglass walls around the seats.
      • i'm the same way, i need to be secured inside something. airplanes don't bother me, but i used to watch hot-air balloons from the ground all the time, and all i can think about is falling out of the basket. old roller-coasters with just a bar across the lap terrify me, the new ones where you have the bars over your shoulders and all that i really enjoy.
    • Re:well (Score:4, Informative)

      by Nefarious Wheel (628136) on Monday December 18, 2006 @04:57PM (#17291600) Journal
      ...but it seems better than being in a balloon with no real control ...

      A term of some use here is "dirigible", i.e. "something that can be directed". Term for lighter-than-air airships of the past was dirigible balloon, shortened to "dirigible" in common use.

      As a young lad I read Doc Smith's stories (before learning that) and had this terrible image of his dirigible torpedoes being these explosive little balloons running around in outer space...

      Oh, and the term "blimp", like "jeep", was a military term shortened in general use -- originally it was a "Type B-Limp Balloon"

      There, I have just elocuted you.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Grey Dragon (13628)
        blimp: a term coined in 1915 as a friendly synonym for a pressure airship. The word is said to have mimicked the sound made when a man snapped his thumb on the airship's gas-filled envelope. It is not derived from the description of an apocryphal type of World War I British airship, the "Balloon, Type B, limp." There was never a "Type B" nor a designation "limp" applied to a British airship before, during or after WW I. The term most likely originated with Lieutenant (later Air Commodore) A. D. Cunningham o
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by The_Wilschon (782534)
        Well, in response to both you and the poster who disagreed with your etymology of "blimp", I went out looking for more information, since nobody bothered to cite any sources. The Discouraging Word [thediscouragingword.com] ran a bit on the etymology of "blimp" a while back, which can be found about halfway down the linked page (sorry, there's no anchor there), under the heading "Shortt, Cunningham, and the bothersome matter of blimp". This posting pulls together a number of sources: the New Yorker, the Oxford English Dictionary, "
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I'm an apartment dweller so about the parking situation...
    • I'm an apartment dweller so about the parking situation...

      If you live in a penthouse, then this blimp would clearly be useful
  • Cool! (Score:3, Funny)

    by zymurgyboy (532799) <zymurgyboy@ y a h o o .com> on Monday December 18, 2006 @03:48PM (#17290544)
    So RMS learned to fly?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Tackhead (54550)
      > So RMS learned to fly?

      "God as my witness, I honestly thought RMS could fly."
      - Steve Ballmer

      • by spun (1352)
        Oh my God, the Stallmans are mounting a counter-attack!

        Best. WKRP. ever.
  • joe: Where do you keep getting this stuff!!!
    • by celardore (844933) *

      joe: Where do you keep getting this stuff!!!
      The line is closer to "How can you afford these things?"
  • by Ingolfke (515826) on Monday December 18, 2006 @03:52PM (#17290606) Journal
    This blimp isn't just a step forward for aviation, it's a major step forward in the development and construction of a viable space elevator. One of the primary problems that has plagued the space elevator proponents is the identification of a cost effective means of transporting the carbon nanotube teather from the Earth's surface to a proper orbit. This blimp and advances in carbon nanotubes could signal the beginning of cheap space transport for all mankind.

    Mark this day on your calendar folks.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by truthsearch (249536)
      How can a blimp with a propeller ever leave the atmosphere?
    • I thought we agreed a space elevator wouldn't work because of the radiation we'd be exposed to on it.
      • Yeah something about the Van Allen belt will cook us like a convenience store burrito. See the following... http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/11/1 3/1920222 [slashdot.org]
      • by Ingolfke (515826)
        Carbon nanotubes combined with a nanobot skin could protect mere mortals from the radiation.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by silentounce (1004459)
        No, we agreed that you encase the personnel car with water to shield from the radiation. And you fill the water with sharks with laser beams as an extra defense mechanism. That was the consensus that was reached.
        • by Dunbal (464142)
          And you fill the water with sharks with laser beams as an extra defense mechanism.

                But won't all that radiation cause the sharks to mutate, so then we'll end up with the entire crew of the elevator devoured by mutant air breathing laser sharks?
      • by Ash Vince (602485)
        If we were bothered about a tiny thing like radiation we would not into space at all.
        We also would not build nuclear reactors that produce vast amounts of radioactive waste that will be toxic for 1000s of years.

        But as we do all these things we are just going to allow oursleves to mutate into genetic supermen and women who are 12 feet tall. Then when we do make it into space we can conquer the galaxy with ease.
    • i thought that it worked the other way around, dropping the tether from the top. (don't know a lot about space elevators)
      • by Ingolfke (515826)
        Well, we had to get up to the top to drop that carbon nanotube teather... so this blimp can do it.
        • But as another post has already pointed out this blimp wont get you out of the atmosphere. So where is the top of the space elevator going to be? I don't think this thing will get you very high at all. Weather balloons will only get you to 40km or so (according to wikipedia). I can't even imagine all the things that would prevent getting this craft that high, It's not a sealed envelope so the air inside the envelope will thin as the craft rises I imagine this would decrease your lifting potential. To conti
          • by Ingolfke (515826)
            Aggghhhhh... that's the sound of my space elevator dream crashing to the ground in a massive carbon nanotube wreck.
          • by Rakishi (759894)
            Just to add to that, the center of a space elevator would be at over 40000km (Geosynchronous orbit). So even 40km is a few orders of magnitude off.
          • Blimps can carry huge loads if you make them large enough. A large unmanned blimp could be used as a high-efficiency first stage -- just fire the Saturn rocket up through it after the blimp reaches max altitude, saving that first few vertical miles worth of rocket fuel.
            • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

              by Calinous (985536)
              You would lose the blimp - there aren't many materials to survive the heat from the launch of a rocket, and none of them in the form of a thin enough film to be used for balloons.
              Anyway, let's assume a Saturn V rocket - with a mass of 3,000,000kg. As each cubic meter of air has about 1kg of weight, you need a balloon at least 3,000,000 cubic meters for buoyancy at sea level.
              Let;s say you want to launch the rocket at 8,000m (some 25,000 feet). Air there has a densi
              • If you just pumped the earth full of helium then you could probably make the distance a little shorter.
              • by gurps_npc (621217)
                The particular device being discussed by this thread/article uses hot air, not helium or hydrogen.

                The hot air can be generated using a solar power generator, one such device for hot air balloons already exists.

                For this reason, your cost caluclation is entirely not relevant to using the method proposed in this thread.

    • Depending on the r-value of the insulating outer layer, this could be a pig when it comes to fuel consumption. Because after all, you have to keep the contained air hot enough to overcome effects of gravity. Also, the added weight of the fuel will be detrimental to maximum distance travelled.

      Helium, on the other hand, once contained within a sealed bladder type system will not require any active means of interaction to achieve bouyancy. Height would most likely be regulated by pressure of the helium with
      • by Ingolfke (515826)
        I think it all really depends on how much bullshit your burn... no?
      • by HiThere (15173) *
        On the contrary, hot air is always lighter than air unless you pressurize it.

        The problem is that the vehicle weighs something, and as the air gets thinner the relative displacement achieved by heating air internal to the surface decreases. I.e., the air inside has to weight enough less than an equal volume of the air outside to support the weight of the casing + any desired cargo. As the air outside gets thinner, any particular volume of it gets lighter, until, at the end, a good vacuum wouldn't be light
        • Instead of filling the blimp with hot air . . .

          Just make the frame out of carbon nano-tubes, with um spectra fiber cloth for the baloon, then pump the air out of that baby and up you go!

          Yeah! Thats the ticket! They probably tried this in Soviet Russia years ago, but failed because they didn't have carbon nano-tubes, so now all this profit are belong to me!

  • by fullphaser (939696) on Monday December 18, 2006 @03:55PM (#17290642) Homepage
    The fact is the booger is huge, there is no excusing this fact. Add this to the whole who the hell has that much space to store a blimp factor and the next who the hell will police the skies (as tickets get much harder to hand over when being able to pull over becomes a non option. The entire article is filled with it issues (namely size and practicality) that would make a helicopter although more expensive millions of times more practical. This is something like why drive your car to work when you can use this perfectly awesome toy wagon with new wheel design.
    • by Ingolfke (515826)
      First off, before you dismiss blimps you should be informed that in the 4th century the Koreans used blimps to successfully invade and conquer Japan. The technology may be old but it's very effective.

      The tickets would be easy to hand out if you equipped all of the blimps with an IR device like you find on most cell phones and laptops these days. Just beam the ticket over.

      Although the size is certainly a problem today, advances in carbon nanotubes, nanobots, and organic construction materials could mean sm
      • by nschubach (922175)
        Yeah, but would I get an IR-Ticket for my giant penis shaped balloon?
        • by Ingolfke (515826)
          Yeah, but would I get an IR-Ticket for my giant penis shaped balloon?

          I hope not... but if you did it could be an article on Your Rights Online. Everyone should have the freedom to own a big penis shaped blimp.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by 2short (466733)
        "you should be informed that in the 4th century the Koreans used blimps to successfully invade and conquer Japan."

        You should be informed that you are making shit up.
        • by Ingolfke (515826)
          Look man... you stick to your books and I'll stick with my gut and we'll see who comes out on top :)
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Dunbal (464142)
        in the 4th century the Koreans used blimps to successfully invade and conquer Japan

        Yeah, and the vikings flew across to the Americas in blimps in the year 200 AC, oh and forget about crossing the Bering strait on winter - the indigenous peoples of the Americas came from China in, you guessed it - blimps of course... Oh and remember, the great pyramids were actually docking towers for the blimps - there was a lot of transatlantic blimp traffic 5000 years ago. This explains the similarit
    • by magarity (164372) on Monday December 18, 2006 @04:08PM (#17290846)
      The fact is the booger is huge, there is no excusing this fact.
       
      Are you kidding? It's only 100 feet long. The Hindenburg was over 800. You, and everyone else complaining about 'practicality' have missed the point of these craft in the modern age: they're cruise ships in the sky. They are leisurely travel for people on leisure time. Just like people take cruise ships on vacation instead of jets to get from one island to another, except these things are cruise ships that can go from London to New York to Las Vegas. Hopefully the 100 foot toy size is a proof of concept. You need an 800 foot job to economically carry enough passengers and have nice enough accomodations.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Deadstick (535032)
      who the hell has that much space to store a blimp

      You do, if you have a two-car garage and one car. It's collapsible, and the lifting gas is expendable (as opposed to helium which is very expensive: helium ballons have to be kept full or emptied with expensive compressors).

      who the hell will police the skies

      The FAA. It's an aircraft, and they know precisely how to give you a ticket, thank you.

      rj

    • >who the hell will police the skies (as tickets get much harder to hand over when being able to pull over becomes a non option.

      It's not the first personal aircraft ever invented. There's a well-proven system of requiring large identifying numbers to be visible on the outside of the aircraft.
    • by evilviper (135110)

      The entire article is filled with it issues (namely size and practicality) that would make a helicopter although more expensive millions of times more practical.

      If you wanted to gather high altitude weather information, a helicopter would be much better than a balloon... </SARCASM>

      Somehow, I must have missed the part of the article that said this is designed to be used by individuals who want to commute to work and back.

      This is something like why drive your car to work when you can use this perfectly

  • by musicon (724240) on Monday December 18, 2006 @03:57PM (#17290668) Homepage
    FYI, there was a recent episode of Nova [pbs.org] on PBS all about Alberto Santos-Dumont.
  • by markov_chain (202465) on Monday December 18, 2006 @03:58PM (#17290680) Homepage
    Seeing how helium is actually quite expensive (paid $70 for 300 cu ft. at a local welding supply if memory serves) it's interesting that this contraption uses hot air. I wonder what the economics of hot air look like; i.e. cost of fuel to maintain lift, etc.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by inKubus (199753)
      The first thing I thought was to use hot HELIUM. I mean, why not? Surely hot Helium will have even more lifting power than regular helium.

      • Hot hydrogen will send you sky high.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Deadstick (535032)
        Surely hot Helium will have even more lifting power than regular helium.

        Not bloody much. The lifting power of a balloon/blimp depends on the difference in density between the gas inside and the air outside. At standard sea-level temperature and pressure:

        One liter of air weighs 1.3 grams.

        One liter of helium weighs 0.18 grams.

        Therefore, by Archimedes's Principle, a one-liter helium balloon will lift 1.3 - 0.18=1.12 grams.

        One liter of helium at 200 degrees C (392 F) would weigh 0.11 grams, and it would

        • by magarity (164372)
          Surely hot Helium will have even more lifting power than regular helium.

          Not bloody much...you'd get about a six percent improvement

           
          The Akron, the largest helium filled dirigible, had a lift capacity of 182,000 pounds. Plus or minus six percent is a whopping 11,000 lb variance depending on whether the sun was shining on it. Hot helium DOES make a difference.
          • by inKubus (199753)
            Interesting. Obviously you probably wouldn't want to raise that all up to 200 degrees C but you could get some extra lift by heating it above ambient temps. And with a radiation barrier, you could keep most of the heat inside permanently. I was under the assumption that a helium-based ship is probably weighted to neutral weight in the air and uses air thrusters to move it up and down. As it gets higher you drop ballast (water, probably) to maintain the balance and to land you dump a little helium/hot he
    • by Colin Smith (2679) on Monday December 18, 2006 @04:11PM (#17290906)
      There are solar heated hot air balloons...

      e.g.
      http://perso.orange.fr/ballonsolaire/en-index.htm [orange.fr]

    • by pcraven (191172)
      I've got a hot air balloon, and spend about $10-$20/hr in propane. Factors such as weight, outside temperature, and condition of the fabric make a big different in fuel consumption. Airships will run a bit higher in cost than balloons because of the added weight, added cooling by passing through the air rather than moving with it, and the non-optimal shape of the blimp compared to a balloon.
      • naive outside question (excuse my ignorance) - you say "the non-optimal shape of the blimp compared to a balloon" - to my eyes it looks like blimps are more aerodynamic so I would have thought more efficient at moving through the air. Could you expand on what you mean by non optimal? cheers!
        • by LWATCDR (28044)
          A sphere will give you the greatest ratio of volume to surface area. A balloons tend to be much closer to a sphere than a blimp would.
          So a balloon of a given volume would have less surface are for heat to escape than a blimp. Not to mention that weight of the material to enclose the volume.
          A blimp is more aerodynamic but would tend to weigh more and loose more heat than a balloon would.
          Your thinking of drag while the grandparent was thinking more about lift at zero airspeed.
      • by pcraven (191172)
        A balloon does not need to be aero-dynamic as it moves with the wind. So in a proper 'Smalley' designed balloon, the balloon is designed only around efficient containment of the hot-air. By adding a front/back nose code and rigid supports, you add weight beyond what is required to produce lift just by holding hot wir. You add weight to support moving through the air rather than with it.

        So I would expect the blimp to require more propane because of that.
  • "Calling Sky Captain. Come in, Sky Captain."

    Can't wait. This kind of reminds me of that Dr. Who epside with the alternate universe with lots of blimps & dirigibles.

    That thing needs a better colour scheme, though. It's not dark and moody enough.

    I wonder it they'll ever reenable the docking tower at the top of the Empire State Building?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by smooth wombat (796938)
      I wonder it they'll ever reenable the docking tower at the top of the Empire State Building?

      Having just taken my parents to the Empire State Building in late September, I can tell you that whomever thought of the idea of offloading people across a small platform, at that height, in the wind that was there on the day I went, really, really, REALLY, needs to get themselves on some meds.

      Fortunately, the idea was scrapped [glasssteelandstone.com] (second paragraph) long ago for the very reasons I just mentioned.

      • by Dunbal (464142)
        whomever thought of the idea of offloading people across a small platform, at that height, in the wind

              Hey, that's peanuts compared to crossing the Atlantic under a balloon full of explosive hydrogen gas...
        • by drinkypoo (153816)
          Hydrogen gas is not explosive. It is flammable. You need to mix it liberally with air (not sure of the ratio) in order to get an explosion. This is why almost everyone on the Hindenburg survived in spite of their aircraft being on fire.
    • by peragrin (659227)
      No the docking ring at the empire state building is just a bad idea. The up current of wind that goes along the building is enough to make docking harder and actually holding a blimp their dangerous. Tower's like that get things like snow or rain "falling" up.

      In order to get it to work one would need some sort of deflector dish's to block the up flow. They will need more power too.

      note: some sarcasm may be present in the above statement.
    • by Chyeld (713439)
      Heck to that if we are calling in the Sky Captian, I want Sportacus [wikipedia.org] and the Iron Vulture! [wikipedia.org]!
  • Even according to the FAQ for the blimp, there are other hot air blimps available. This thing is not available for sale, they "predict that, with the current engine in place, we'll go about 12 miles per hour" (i.e. they haven't even measured it from the ground which is easy enough to do), and they say they don't really want to fly much above treetop level though they have reached "hundreds of feet".

    In other words, someone has built themselves a clever gadget, but it's barely been used at all, and is basical
  • I always zeppelins to make a come-back. It looks like they are currently used only for sightseeing and surveying, though.

    I don't suppose this new hot-air balloon can compete. It really does look like a cross between a blimp and balloon, though.
  • This would make the perfect album cover! Someone resurrect John Bonham and get the band back together.
  • Man! That's a lot of blimps!

  • Cheap Fuel (Score:3, Funny)

    by cdr_data (916869) on Monday December 18, 2006 @04:20PM (#17291026)
    This will be the ultimate way to get around Washington DC. Plenty of free fuel....
  • Whatever happened to commuter blimps? IIRC, There was a proposal 20 years ago to have commuter blimps travel between San Jose and San Francisco (50 miles) that would take an hour each way. I guess the air went out of the proposal since it wasn't any faster or cost effective than taking the train or car.
  • Airship nomenclature defined these:

    Type A - Rigid
    Type B - Limp (hence the nickname "blimp")

    This has a rigid frame inside so it cannot be a blimp.
  • Richard Branson is attempting to circumvent the world for the e^(pi*i)th time.... Only this time, running off of a hybrid fuel of hot air and smug [southparkstudios.com]
  • these look like they could make pretty kick ass communications relays / air based controllers for uav/uas applications. seems like they can carry a pretty decent payload, but there's still the question of fuel efficiency.
  • Hook up some sort of powered fan to any hot-air balloon, and you would have the same thing.

    Wouldn't you?
    • by tsotha (720379)

      Not really, although the very first airships were just that. The problem is you can only go fast enough such that the pressure on the leading, er, edge matches the pressure on the inside of the envelop. What that means is for a fabric balloon you'll get a flat spot at the "bow". Probably squeeze out some of the hot air and cost you lift. At any rate, the instability will make it very difficult to keep the fan pointed in the right direction.

      Blimps get around the problem by having a sealed envelope and u

  • If it has a rigid frame, its a dirigible. A blimp is non-rigid. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dirigible [wikipedia.org]
  • Oh the humanity!
  • I quite appreciate the summary of the thought process [personalblimp.com] that led to this design.

I use technology in order to hate it more properly. -- Nam June Paik

Working...