Lockheed Martin Unveils Cargo-Moving Blimp
Airship Touted as Way to Deliver Cargo to Locations That May Be Inaccessible to Trucks
Lockheed Martin Corp.
The secretive Skunk Works in Palmdale has over the years spawned such sleek aircraft as the SR-71 Blackbird spy plane and the F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter.
One of the facility's hangars houses a 120-foot-long, 21-foot-tall dirigible that resembles a cloud with three puffs — the prototype of a much larger hybrid airship that Lockheed Martin Corp. has touted as a way to deliver heavy cargo and personnel to remote locations.
When fully built, the LMH-1 will be a 21 metric ton, 300-foot-long and 78-foot-tall airship that is intended to carry truck-size loads to areas that are inaccessible to more traditional modes of transportation.
But that grand vision has yet to materialize, and airships are a long way from disrupting long-haul transportation.
Lockheed Martin officials said they have no confirmed customers yet, but there are more than a dozen interested parties.
The LMH-1 could potentially be used in the oil and gas or mining industries, as well as for humanitarian relief, said Grant Cool, chief operating officer of Atlanta-based Hybrid Enterprises, the hybrid airship's exclusive reseller.
“We are targeting a market that is not really competing with anything else out there,” Cool said. “We are looking for opportunities that don't really exist right now.”
The full-sized LMH-1 could have its first flight by late 2017, and it is expected to be in commercial service by the end of 2018. A single airship will cost $40 million.
Lockheed Martin has said the airship will be able to carry up to 47,000 pounds, 19 passengers and burn less fuel than conventional aircraft.
The airship will have four fairly small engines and gets about 80% of its lift from helium. An air-cushion landing system, which resembles three round kiddie pools, allows the airship to land on wild terrain such as open water, sand, snow or ice. The air-cushion landing system also allows the dirigible to stick to the ground like a suction cup so that it doesn't move with the wind, said Bob Boyd, program manager for the Lockheed Martin hybrid airships.
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|By Samantha Masunaga|
Los Angeles Times
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