The SkyHook is designed specifically to transport equipment and materials economically in remote regions where there may be no airport infrastructure, and where conventional land and water transportation methods may be inadequate, unreliable and costly.
The JHL-40 is claimed to be environmentally responsible because it can avoid the need to build new roads to support construction in remote areas. Boeing therefore expects Skyhook to reduce the carbon footprint of the industrial projects it supports.
To achieve this capability, the SkyHook combines aerostatic lift and rotorcraft technology to lift loads of up to 80,000lb and transport them up to 200 miles (175nm) at speeds of 70kt. This represents double the capacity of the world’s current largest helicopter, the Mil Mi-26.
Like the earlier Piasecki PA-97 Heli-Stat heavy vertical airlifter, the JHL-40 marries a helium-filled envelope to four helicopter-type rotors – in this case adapted from those of the Boeing Model 234 Chinook helicopter. Unlike the older Piasecki design, the SkyHook also incorporates ducted propellers to provide forward propulsion, and for maneuvering, positioning and station keeping.
The elliptical-shaped, semi-rigid envelope is sized to support the weight of the aircraft and its fuel, which is neutrally buoyant without payload, so that the lift produced by the four rotors is dedicated solely to lifting the payload. Unlike traditional airships, the JHL-40 does not need to transfer ballast when the payload is lifted or deposited.
“SkyHook secured the patent for this aircraft and approached Boeing with the opportunity to develop and build the system,” said Pat Donnelly, director of advanced rotorcraft systems for Boeing. “We conducted a feasibility study and decided this opportunity is a perfect fit for advanced systems’ technical capabilities.”
Boeing has received the first increment of a multi-year contract from SkyHook to develop the new aircraft, and will build the first two prototypes at Ridley Park, Pa. Development of the aircraft will be expedited by using components that will avoid the need for proof-of-concept prototyping. The new aircraft will enter commercial service once Federal Aviation Administration and Transport Canada certification is received. SkyHook will own, maintain, operate, and service all aircraft for customers worldwide from its main base in Alberta, Canada.
Source: Flight International