Feeds

Germany tests tadpole airship

Uses Graf Zeppelin style gas-fuel tech

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

Vid A German-American company has successfully tested a prototype unmanned airship of weird and wonderful design. The so-called "Stratellite" craft is composed of gas-filled segments linked in a chain, so it can flex and bend with the wind.

Here's a company flight-test vid (you need Flash and YouTube privileges to see it):

Like many modern lighter-than-air projects, the idea of the Stratellite is to serve as a communications relay or surveillance platform, floating at stratospheric heights for long periods. The cruising height of 65 to 70,000 feet is often chosen for long-endurance unmanned aircraft because of the "wind bucket" found at that height. Low windspeeds mean that an aircraft can stay on station or move about without needing to burn too much fuel.

The Stratellite's tadpole-like segmented design is the brainchild of Dr Bernd Kröplin, president of TAO Technologies GmbH of Stuttgart. The development of the airship is being carried out by a joint venture between TAO and Florida-based Sanswire Corp.

The flexible structure isn't the Stratellite's only special sauce. Aviation Week reports that the ship also uses a cunning method of buoyancy control, one of the great Achilles heels of helium filled lighter-than-air craft. As fuel is burned up, the ship becomes too light to maintain a steady height; but helium is too expensive to be casually vented off.

The Stratellite, however, doesn't have this problem because is runs its Rotax engine on gaseous fuel stored in the ship's cells. The fuel is mixed so that it has exactly the same density as the atmosphere, meaning that the ship's buoyancy is unaffected as it is burned and its place in the cells taken up by air.

Sanswire-TAO refer to this gas-fuel ploy as "the Company’s proprietary propulsion solution" in their press release, but there would seem to be prior art here. The famous 1930s airship liner Graf Zeppelin actually employed the same gambit, running her engines on "Blaugas" specially mixed so as to have the same density as air.

Apart from the bendy structure and buoyancy-compensating gas fuel, Av Week reports that the Stratellite will soon feature powerful engine supercharging in order to operate at its designed cruising height. The ship is also expected to have an option to drop its payload attached to a satnav-guided parawing of the sort now starting to become common in military airdrop operations. This would allow the most expensive part of the ship to be recovered in the event that winds between the stratospheric bucket and the ground didn't permit landing. Alternatively, the entire ship could be deflated at height and parachute itself down, losing only the pricey helium fill.

A 70m-long ship is slated to make stratospheric flights late next year, according to Sanswire-TAO.

The Av Week report is here, and there's more from the company here. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
LOHAN tunes into ultra long range radio
And verily, Vultures shall speak status unto distant receivers
NASA to reformat Opportunity rover's memory from 125 million miles away
Interplanetary admins will back up data and get to work
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
EOS, Lockheed to track space junk from Oz
WA facility gets laser-eyes out of the fog
Volcanic eruption in Iceland triggers CODE RED aviation warning
Lava-spitting Bárðarbunga prompts action from Met Office
LOHAN Kickstarter breaks NINETEEN THOUSAND of your EARTH POUNDS
That's right, OVER 9,000 beer tokens - and counting
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.