Is this a blimp or a plane?

The Dynalifter is a combination of fixed-winged airplane and helium airship. So far, a $500,000, two-seat, 117-foot-long prototype has been built and the first flights are expected this spring. Several models are planned for usages ranging from news reporting to humanitarian aid transport.

In a very brief note, Wired Magazine reports about the Dynalifter, an airplane/blimp hybrid, a combination of fixed-winged airplane and helium airship designed by Ohio Airships, Inc. So far, a $500,000, two-seat, 117-foot-long prototype has been built and the first flights are expected this spring. If everything goes fine, the company plans to build several models ranging from 120-ft to 400-ft for aerial photography or news reporting up to 500-ft to 1000-ft for military special missions or humanitarian aid transport. Read more for a picture gallery about these aircrafts which offer the practicality of airplanes and the fuel efficiency of airships.

All the information below comes from the Ohio Airships, Inc. web site, including the images which belong to the company.

Let's start with an image of the prototype of the Dynalifter-1 completed in 2005.

Dynalifter prototype

This two-seat, 117-ft. Dynalifter prototype, is only one of the models envisioned by the company.

Small Dynalifters could serve as practical "Aerial Lookouts" for law enforcement in major cities and along national borders by eliminating the prohibitive costs and noise associated with patrolling helicopters. [And] large, heavy-lift Dynalifters could potentially provide a world-changing alternative to roads, rails, & waterways for moving freight.

Below you can see the various models "ranging from the two-seat Patroller, to the 200-ton Freighter."

Dynalifter models

And the company thinks that its large models could help underdeveloped nations with its "roadless trucking" hubs as you can see below.

Dynalifter roadless trucking hub

Here are more details about this concept.

Most of the world (Africa, Asia, South America, and Australia) has a desperate need for the market features that a sophisticated trucking system would offer. However, the largest cost in building any trucking system is not in the "mode" (i.e. the trucks or trains), but rather in the "road" (i.e. the highways or rails). Conversely, a "roadless" system built entirely of existing freight aircraft would be prohibitively expensive for any nation (as is the case in the US). Therefore, a Dynalifter "Roadless Trucking" system, with transport costs and speeds comparable to trucking without the need of building a sophisticated highway network, could essentially be afforded by every developing nation.

This is an artist's rendition of a Dynalifter Freighter in its final approach to a "roadless trucking" hub.

Dynalifter final approach

This kind of airship would also be able to quickly load and unload what they carry, thanks to a concept of detachable pods, as you can see below.

Dynalifter loading and unloading

Dynalifters are capable of releasing detachable cargo pods without the need for a weight transfer system. First, this would allow for rapid loading and off-loading. Loading and off-loading the pods could actually take place without the aircraft’s presence, further reducing aircraft vulnerability and deployment time. Second, detachable pods could carry the next mission’s fuel and supplies, allowing for in-flight refueling and quick turnarounds. Third, detachable pods could be uniquely designed for each mission. There would no longer be a need to modify aircraft for special missions; modify the cargo pods instead. Fourth, detachable pods could provide instant infrastructure at the destination point. Like building blocks, Dynalifters could drop off multiple pods, building temporary repair facilities, field hospitals, and barracks.

Will we see these airships around the globe anytime soon? Let's first wait for the first flights.

Sources: Wired Magazine, Issue 14.04, April 2006; and Dynalifter web site

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