Feeds

Boeing to build combo airship-copter flying cranes

Canadians plan worldwide rental whirlyblimp service

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Aerospace behemoth Boeing has announced that it will build a hybrid airship/helicopter combination aircraft, able to lift heavy loads across long distances. Boeing will work with Canadian firm SkyHook International.

"SkyHook secured the patent for this neutrally buoyant aircraft and approached Boeing with the opportunity to develop and build the system," said Boeing whirlybird chief Pat Donnelly. "We conducted a feasibility study and decided this opportunity is a perfect fit."

Artist's concept of the JHL-40s in operation

Have bag, will travel.

The planned JHL-40 will use a helium-filled lifting envelope with both lift rotors and swivelling propulsors attached. The helium will make the aircraft neutrally buoyant, meaning that the entire rotor thrust will be available for lifting loads. This will mean greater fuel efficiency than a normal helicopter, but will avoid the problems suffered by a normal, rotorless airship on depositing a heavy cargo*. The swivelling thrusters will mean that the JHL-40 can hover with great precision, picking up and setting down loads as accurately as a crane.

According to the planned spec, the gasbag-chopper combo will be able to lift a load of forty tons and move it 200 miles without refuelling. This is twice as much load as the biggest current helicopters can manage. Boeing and SkyHook say there are companies queuing up to hire JHL-40s, excited by the prospects of much easier transport in remote or harsh-climate regions without good roads. The plan is that Boeing will build the JHL-40s and SkyHook will own and operate them.

SkyHook say that JHL actually stands for "Jess Heavy Lifter" after the company CEO Pete Jess - no relation to the US military project, Joint Heavy Lift - and claim the machine will be "the first of its kind". Those who recall the ill-fated Piasecki Heli-Stat might dispute that last bit, however. The Heli-Stat was remarkably similar to the JHL-40, but didn't have the financial muscle that Boeing will be able to provide this time around. It was made by fixing together a retired US Navy blimp and the front ends of some old Sikorsky helicopters. The JHL-40 graphics (beware - Flash) suggest a rather more polished product.

SkyHook even claims that the new blimpcopter air-cranes will even offer an environmental benefit, in that big roads for construction equipment and so forth won't need to be built - a JHL-40 could be used instead. That sounds a little suspicious, but overall it seems a nifty idea. ®

Bootnote

* The airship would suddenly be very positively buoyant, and would soar upwards uncontrollably. Even if the pilot refused to vent off gas, this decision would soon be taken out of his hands as "pressure height" was reached, where the expanding gas completely fills the envelope. Automatic valves would then dump the gas to prevent the ship bursting. As helium is expensive, it can't be thrown away like this every time a load is dropped off.

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Antarctic ice THICKER than first feared – penguin-bot boffins
Robo-sub scans freezing waters, rocks warming models
I'll be back (and forward): Hollywood's time travel tribulations
Quick, call the Time Cops to sort out this paradox!
Your PHONE is slowly KILLING YOU
Doctors find new Digitillnesses - 'text neck' and 'telepressure'
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
prev story

Whitepapers

Go beyond APM with real-time IT operations analytics
How IT operations teams can harness the wealth of wire data already flowing through their environment for real-time operational intelligence.
10 threats to successful enterprise endpoint backup
10 threats to a successful backup including issues with BYOD, slow backups and ineffective security.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.