Friday, November 2, 2007

17th Lighter-Than-Air Systems Technology Conference - 4th part of commentary

Continuing our coverage of the 17th AIAA Lighter-Than-Air Systems Technology Conference we bring you the third part finishing Tuesday September 18th and going in to Wednesday September 19th. If you missed our previous posts you are invited to read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 before continuing on. As before this post is part of a longer Commentary written by Charles Luffman from LTA Solutions Ltd. Enjoy!
Events of Wednesday 19 September (2nd day of conference) - continued

LTA-5. The afternoon session concerning Airship Buoyancy Systems was chaired by Richard van Treuran, of the United Space Alliance, Cape Canaveral, FL, USA. Richard is a stalwart of the airship community, who has made LTA his second job, writing and publishing books and films on the topic via Atlantis Productions (, which he runs with his wife (Deborah), who was also at the event.

18) The first speaker in Richard’s session was Alexander Bormann, already discussed above. His paper on, New Insulation for Thermal Balloons and Airships, was a collaborative effort with associates from Berlin, Germany; Igualada, Spain; and Lausanne, Switzerland. He gave us important information about fabric developments that help to reduce heat losses, thereby improving performance and reducing the amount of fuel needed for sustained flight. As evident from the papers, Alexander provides technical services and is involved with leading developments in the LTA industry, particularly fabrics. No doubt much of this is from his work concerning steam filled balloons as an alternative to other gases and hot air. I hope to see more in the future.

19) Richards’s next speaker was Chris Severns, an employee of the Boeing Company, Issaquah, WA, USA, who really was there on his own behalf (with his wife) following his work as a leading engineer in the field of electrical power systems at CargoLifter in Germany – where I got to know him. CargoLifter was a phenomenon of our time that inspired many people. Sadly, we have lost this now due to prosaic bean counting by those who only understand accounts. The cost of this loss however is not just the relatively small amount of money involved (€300 million), compared with that invested in the HTA sector (many €Billions), but the enormous setback to the industry and society its ruthless abandonment caused, where funds for development are virtually non-existent now. Thanks to Chris’ perseverance, we now at least have something from the research he started in Germany, which no doubt also may be applied to other non LTA systems.

Chris’ paper about an, Airship Hybrid Power System Design Using Evolutionary Programming for Seeking Neutral Buoyancy was beyond my field of knowledge and with a fair amount of theory, but clearly was a topic for those inclined or involved in such developments in the audience.

20) The last of Richard’s speakers was again Alexander Bormann, with a paper entitled, HEIDAS UH: Flying with Super-Heated Steam. Yes, Alex is the other principal advocate of steam to Thomas Goodey (not at the conference) as a lifting gas. This was an informative paper on the subject and of importance, because steam is not often considered. Yet it provides ability to vary aerostatic lift in an affordable safe manner. More work on this subject is needed, so I hope to see more.

Evening 2. This brought us to an early end, giving one plenty of time before the evening’s Awards Banquet in the Grand Ballroom. This was a splendid occasion bringing together the several hundred delegates, partners and other visitors from the several groups holding conferences jointly. The ballroom was set up with large round tables to accommodate the many guests. It was a convivial occasion with wine and social chitchat flowing freely. However, the highlight of the evening were the awards, where George Spyrou of AMS was given recognition for his services to the airship industry and Hepburn Walker, the veteran of airships, was awarded posthumously for his life time contributions in this field. Hep’s award was received by Richard van Treuran on behalf of Hep’s family. It was very pleasing to see LTA people being given such recognition.

Events of Thursday 20 September (3rd and final day of conference)

LTA-6. The final day of the conference again was started promptly by Alexander Bormann for that morning’s session about Aerostat and Airship Structures.

21) Alex’s first speaker was Shoji Maekawa, an invited researcher at JAXA in Japan, who presented the work of his team on Tear Propagation of a High Performance Airship Envelope Material. Tear propagation of fabrics in airship envelopes is a sensitive issue, so his oral presentation was much appreciated. He showed us the bi-axial test and pressurised cylinder work undertaken together with results achieved for the Zylon material tested. This was important work for the future of LTA aircraft, to get reliable data and lightweight fabrics for envelopes and gas cells with high rip strength properties – an aspect that is worrying with some fabrics. Understanding the behaviour is a necessary aspect to developing solutions and confidence, so it was good to hear about this work.

22) Still with more to speak about, Alex’s next presenter was again Rajkumar, to tell us about his team’s work on Multidisciplinary Shape Optimization of Aerostat Envelopes. This essentially was an exercise that had been undertaken to find the best profile, balancing cost and performance, for their airship projects. In the end Raj showed us that their original simple profiling method was good enough but weight reductions were possible by tailoring – using lighter materials at the nose and stern.

23) Pramud Rawat from Columbia, MD, USA was Alex’s next speaker, who gave a presentation on Nonlinear Analyses of Aerostat Behavior. Pramud clearly had significant experience concerning the deployment of aerostats both at high and low altitude, and in different locations. His message was simple enough to understand, where he was advising analysts to do the non-linear analysis with all of the terms included instead of simplifying and linearising the formulae. This was because he had found from experience some very nasty conditions, which only the non-linear approach would predict.

This was rather important to overcome overload situations where the tether would fail and the aerostat lost. The mediating factor he explained, however, was that aerostats were cheap and it perhaps wasn’t practical (due to excessive tether weight) to cover these occasional cases, so operators should keep a couple of spares on hand to keep the operation going when aerostats are lost – usually in places where supply is difficult.

24) Yet again, but for the last time, Rajkmar returned to the podium as Alex’s last speaker to present his teams effort in India concerning Design and Fabrication of an Aerostat for Wireless Communication in Remote Areas. Aerostats, as Raj explained, were being looked at in India as a simple, cost effective way to hoist communication systems that could be rapidly set up in remote places all over India. The presentation showed how a cost effective design with locally produced fabrics was being established for the purpose.

Mid-day 3. So, with the morning’s session over but a full afternoon yet to follow, it was out into Belfast for a quick bowl of stew and a cup of tea before the final events. Then back to the Edinburgh Suite again for more.

LTA Plenary session. The first event of the afternoon (13.00 – 15.00), instead of being another session of presentations, was an opportunity for review of the Environmental Advantages of Transport Airships, with full participation from the delegates there. The event was chaired by: Gregory Gottlieb, who is an Airship Association Committee Member, and currently lives in Abu Dhabi, UAE. The review was a little like some television debates, where there is a panel responding to input from the audience as well as the panel espousing their views. Gregory’s panel comprised: Grant Carichner, Lockhead Martin Aeronautics Company, Palmdale, USA; Ronald Hochstetler, Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), McLean, VA, USA; and Richard Smith, Shell Global Solutions.

After explaining how things were run, each of the panellists talked briefly about themselves and their views on the subject to get things started. Gregory then addressed the delegates in the audience again to get input and with Mike Conners and Bernd Stäter carrying microphones around for delegates to be heard. Things quickly got underway and a useful exchange ensued. Many points were made, which I believe will be useful to help establish LTA aircraft for such purposes. Hopefully somebody recorded the debate some how.
This concludes part 4 of our commentary. We will return with part 5 soon and are also looking into making the papers that where presented available to download. If you have presented one of those papers and would like to share it with the public as a PDF download or would like to share your Powerpoint presentation please contact us, so that we can make arrangements. If you know one of the presenters please help us to get as many of the presentations as a free download. The knowledge about Airships and especially the research needs to be spread throughout the world. If you know of links where one can buy the papers please forward those also to us.


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