May 2, 2010

Alternative Travel Expert Discusses New Sustainable Aircraft

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Air travel recently witnessed an exciting development with the innovative design of a new airship, a zeppelin called “Geoship.”  Michael Voorhees, CEO of Skylite Aeronautics, presented the lecture “Transformational Transportation — Geoship and the Green Leap” on Friday, educating the audience about alternative sources of travel.

Engineers designed the 500 meter long airship to increase sustainability and efficiency.  With a 1000 metric ton capacity, the Geoship uses less than 10 percent of the energy required by alternative jet aircraft.  Made primarily of braided carbon fiber frames — a lightweight material — the aircraft is in the form of an ellipse.  The supporting frames form equilateral triangles to provide maximum supportive strength.

Contrary to a proto-typical jet, the Geoship travels buoyantly through the air, using significantly less energy for take-off and landing.

Using solar energy or sustainable biofuels, the airship consumes less energy and avoids environmental complications, like ice.

Throughout his introduction, Voorhees compared the airshift to a cell phone.

According to Voorhees, the influx of cellular devices in Bangladesh and other third world countries “leap frogged the need for infrastructure such as the land line infrastructure that we take for granted here and now the third world has better communications … than the United States does.”

By comparison, the Geoship makes uninterrupted flights, and unlike standard airplanes, it does not require a runway or port to land. This may significantly reduce the amount of highways and roads, essentially reducing the need for extensive infrastructures.

The modern-looking Geoship produces minimal sound and appears to float through the sky.

However, it is the return of an old concept. In 1783, the first Ellipsoidal Airship was proposed.  In 1929, the Graf Zeppelin travelled the around the globe, making it the most successful airship in history.

Following World War II and the influence of the Nazis, airships disappeared due to conflicts between competing companies and Nazi dictatorship.

With renewed efforts to endorse “green” energy efforts, operators of Skylite Aeronautics targeted potential clientele in specific markets, such as the cargo market. Standard transportation of cargo is typically performed by ships and trucks. However, the airship provides a superior method with direct flights and climate accommodation.

The airship may also transport passengers. Operators hope to initially appeal to wealthy customers and celebrities before reaching out to the general public when manufacturing costs go down.

Because of it’s near silent movement, the Geoship also has the potential to serve as an excellent wildlife observatory, according to Voorhees.

As of now, engineers estimate another $10 million to complete the design. Estimates suggest that each Geoship cost $200 million in production, but this price should decrease to $100 million over several years.

The main focal point in moving forward relies on both funding and communication with communities. Skylite Aeronautics workers must correspond with local communities in order to meet consumer demands.

Original Author: Caitlin Parker