A Russian company is seeking to develop and fly a hybrid airship within about four years to carry passengers and cargo, especially in Russia's remote Arctic regions.
RosAeroSystems, which displayed a model of the Atlant airship at the MAKS air show, is seeking to overcome the ground handling and buoyancy issues that have limited the application of commercial airships.
Like the US military-funded Aeroscraft, the Atlant is designed to rapidly reduce buoyancy by pressurising the lifting gas, says t, Michael Talesnikov, vice-president at the company.
Conventional airships must take on ballast while unloading cargo, or risk floating away as buoyancy rises. But the source of the ballast - either tonnes of water or dirt - requires heavy infrastructure at the airship's landing zone.
RosAeroSystems instead pressurises the air to control the vehicle's buoyancy, Talesnikov says.
"In other words, we know how to take the air as a ballast," he explains.
RosAeroSystems, founded by a former associate of Aeroscraft chief executive Igor Pasternak, has already built ground test rigs of the air pressurisation system and the Atlant's thrust vectoring systems.
But company officials are aware they are attempting to introduce a new kind of aviation vehicle that is not quite an airship, helicopter or fixed-wing transport, but combines elements of all three.
"It's quite challenging," Talesnikov says. "We are realistic people. We understand we will face some difficulties."
In a country where 70% of the land mass lacks access by ground-based transportation systems, RosAeroSystems is targeting companies that need access to Russia's remote Arctic region.
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