Wednesday, July 18, 2007

New Hybrid Airship Research Project - Memories of the Skykitten and the P-791

Chris Jisi from the Airship-list posted a link to a very interesting Article talking about a hybrid airship research Project at the University of Cambridge in the UK.
Dr Fehmi Cirak, a lecturer in structural engineering at Cambridge, is leading the research. He specialises in computational research to develop models and algorithms for structures and fluids that, for this project, will simulate all the factors that affect the airship's dynamic behaviour.

'Our job will be computational modelling. In this and most other industries, people are moving away more and more from doing experiments and building prototypes. we basically want to accomplish the entire design process on the computer,' said Cirak.
Ok sounds interesting but nothing spectacular. The article continues with:
The project will use data gathered from a 40m-long prototype hybrid airship to improve the design of subsequent larger vehicles.
And further down comes an even more interesting piece:
'Imagine an inflated doughnut, with a large fan in the centre. It can either blow or suck air, allowing the vehicle to hover like a hovercraft or to grip to the ground after landing.' This means the airship can be pulled to the ground on landing or pushed away on take-off.
The only hybrid airships who have an aircusion landing system are the Skycat by Roger Munk which was never built only a small scale version called Skykitten was built, or the Skunk Works/Lockheed Martin P-791 prototype.
The Skykitten with a length of roughly 15m as far as I know could not have been the prototype they are talking about so it must be the Skunkworks P-791 which provided the data.
We will investigate this further, if you know more let us and the readers know leave your comments or send us an Email.
[Update:] Arnold Nayler from the Airship-List commented on the post by Chris Jisi with the following:
Of interest is who is financing the research? Did you note that the research is in conjunction with Tensys, who worked with ATG on SkyCat and then Lockheed Martin on the P 791 ? I am pretty certain that the funding is not from the UK so maybe it is Lockheed Martin that is behind what must be an expensive piece of work.
A quick look at the Website of Tensys shows even more evidence that there is something going on and that this is more an evolution of what has been done before. Obviously coming back to the first quote of the article, after having helped to build two prototypes, the Skykitten and the P-791 they are now looking into developing the concept furter with the help of computer simulation.