David Learmount/LONDON

A new kind of air vehicle design is being proposed by a UK company. Known as SkyCat 1000, it would be able to carry cargo loads of up to 1,000t by uniquely combining lighter-than-air aerodynamic lifting-body and hovercraft technology.

A smaller 15t cargo version, dubbed SkyCat 15, has already been ordered and will be flying in a year.

Chief executive of the Advanced Technologies Group, Roger Monk, says that the US Department of Defense is interested in SkyCat 1000 because of its potential to lift massive loads and land on any area of flat ground, water or swamp, enabled by its hover-cushion technology landing system. SkyCat 1000, the 1000t payload machine, would be 300m long, travel at 110kt (204km/h), and have a range of 9,250km (5,000nm).


SkyCat is the first rival to emerge for the German company CargoLifter, which is building a more conventional air vehicle for moving large loads.

The structure would be a catamaran-type hull, looking like combined side-by-side airships. Their shape would be more curved on top and flatter below, providing aerodynamic lift, which means that the vehicle can operate at heavier than air overall weight, alleviating the need for ballast transfer on landing to discharge cargo.

The payload module would be a roll-on, roll-off cargo hold between the two hulls, doubling as the vehicle's keel. Below each hull would be a skirt surrounding the hovercushion "landing gear".

Monk says that the company already holds some equity, but he is looking to raise more by risk-sharing with partners. If SkyCat 1000 gets the go-ahead, he says, development to first flight would take four years.

Source: Flight International