Imagine an Electric Aerial Cruise Ship
By EV World
It more closely resembles a whale in the sky than a cloud, but designer Jean-Marie Massaud's "Manned Cloud" LTA (lighter-than-air) hybrid airship could represent the future of air travel.
Lifted by three giant helium-filled bladders, the 210 meters long aircraft is 82 meters wide and 52 meters high. With a volume of 520,000 cubic meters, it can carry 40 passengers and 15 crew members on two decks that include 20 state rooms, a restaurant, lounge, library, fitness center and spa, bar and sun deck terrace at top of the craft.
With a top speed of 170 km/hr, it could -- like the ill-fated, hydrogen-filled Hindenburg dirigible -- cross the Altantic in 72 hours, ten times as long as a modern commercial jetliner -- but two to three times faster than the fastest cruise ship.
Better still, although helium is a depleting resource, the Manned Cloud, could be the first zero-emission, commercial passenger aircraft, assuming that instead of using internal combustion engines to power the LTA's three propellors, any future developers chose instead to use hydrogen fuel cells that will power quiet, pollution-free electric motors.
While this may resurrect the ghost of the Hindenburg, which crashed in 1937, such comparisons are erroneous. The helium that would lift Massaud's machine (developed jointly with ONERA, France's Office National d’Etudes et de Recherche Aérospatiale) is nonflammable. An inert gas, it will not burn. Instead, the hydrogen to power the fuel cells, would be stored in safety tanks -- perhaps like those being developed by Israel-based C.En -- and used to generate electric power to spin the propellors. We assume, of course, that the hydrogen is sustainably produced.
Also, given the available surface area, thin-film or dye-sensitive solar cells could be incorporated into the skin of the aircraft to provide additional electrical energy. This idea was originally proposed for the High Altitude Airship (HAA), but appears to have been dropped in the Lockheed Martin P791 that first flew briefly a year today.
Schematics of the airship are available at the De Zeen Design Magazine web site.
While the Manned Cloud may not replace high-speed jet travel -- assuming the industry comes with a sustainable substitute for Jet 8 -- imagine leisurely "green aerial cruises" over the Amazon, Namib desert, Canadian Rockies or American Southwest. That would be an experience to remember.
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