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Brit hover barges, airships offered to Canadian oilfields

Can Blighty beat the (partly) Canadian blimpcopter?

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Hover barge? Pah. You want an airship. Or a SkyHook.

Meanwhile another British firm, Hybrid Air Vehicles, says that mere ground-skimmer barges are unambitious. What you want is a trendy "hybrid" airship - a refinement on traditional dirigibles, using aerodynamic lift to supplement that from internal helium gas cells.

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

The Canadian SkyHook JHL-40 option (being built by Boeing)

The company submit for consideration their mighty SkyCat 200, capable of lifting 200 tonnes and roughly 100 times the size of dead jubtabulous gold-digger giantess Anna Nicole Smith in length and dimensions through the body (in some directions at least). The gigantic gasbag features a massive cargo bay, and could dispense even with rivers while hauling in Alberta's new generation of oil plants.

That said, such craft usually need to take on ballast when landing cargo in order to avoid suddenly taking off again willy-nilly. The SkyCat, like most modern airship proposals, is designed to use vertical thrust and fly heavy, but even so it would seem likely to have difficulty staying under control without taking on any weight to replace a 200 tonne payload.

There are airship designers who claim to have cracked this problem, but it's noticeable that the only plan to receive backing from a major aerospace firm, the SkyHook JHL-40, uses rotor blades to keep its payload up - the gas cells are purely to support the craft itself.

The JHL-40 is actually intended for the very sort of market represented by the Alberta oilsand fields, and is actually to be operated by a Canadian firm as well - though built by Boeing. Much though Fort McMurray Today doesn't mention the big blimpcopter, it wouldn't be at all surprising to see SkyHook International beat Hovertrans and Hybrid Air Vehicles to a lot of the oilsands transport business - assuming the work doesn't simply get done by road or rail, the way such things have mainly been done for the past century and more. ®

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