After many years of blogging, and consistent with my desire to move toward retirement, we have ended the Insights blog. Thanks to Doug Bedell for his years of blog support.

Skylifter Looks Like a Flying ‘Skittle’

Posted on October 3, 2010
Filed Under Business, Technology | Leave a Comment

The other day, just up the rural road from where we live, a truck with an oversized load – maybe the cylinder of a farmer’s new silo – was announced by the flashing lights of its escort truck. It was touch-and-go as the truck and its load turned the tight corner. We pictured the  convoy in all the antsy scrapes it would be in that day and wondered, mightn’t there a better way to transport oversized loads that are too heavy for helicopters?

From Australia comes a hopeful “Yes!” The Aussie aeronautical company Skylifter has come up with a variation of a balloon – an inflatable flying saucer – that in three years or so it expects to be flying heavy equipment, even whole buildings, to remote areas. Heavy transport helicopters can lift “only” 20 tons. The Skylifter is envisioned to haul as much as 150 tons, a 700 percent increase, reports Popular Science.  With its thinner profile, the “saucer” should be less susceptible to winds during flight. It’s expected to have a range of 1240 miles. The control pod, or aerostat, hangs below the “saucer” on what seems like a pole and has propellers for steering the aircraft. All-in-all from a distance, the Skylifter will probably look something like a child’s skittles top.

From the gallery of photos that Skylifter provides, the Skylifter looks like it could be transporting welcome loads to exotic places, even a whole “hotel.” The Skylifter has obvious implications for nuclear power plant construction or refurbishment. Imagine not having to haul, say, new steam generators across the countryside.

Dirigibles have been another much-anticipated flying freight solution, so the Skylifter may have competition for lighter-than-air heavy lifting. – Doug Bedell


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