Monday, November 12, 2007

Commentary on the 17th Lighter-Than-Air Systems Technology Conference - 5th and last part

Today we conclude our coverage of the 17th Lighter-Than-Air Systems Technology Conference with the last part of the commentary. Sorry that it took so long, but my day job kept me quite busy. This last part is of course also written by our very own Charles Luffman from LTA Solutions Ltd.
Here are also the links again to the first 4 parts:But let's get to the final chapter, shall we.
Events of Thursday 20 September (3rd and final day of conference) - continued

LTA-7. This was to be the last session of the conference, from 15.30 – 18.00 and about Transport Airship Developments. Chaired by Robert Boyd, from Lockheed Martin Corporation, Palmdale, CA, USA, who I did not know. It was interesting to see the Lockheed style of business.

25) Robert’s first speaker was to be Thomas Brandt, the new CEO of ZLT Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik GmbH and Co KG, Friedrichshafen, Germany, on the Zeppelin NT as a Platform for Remote Sensing for Environmental and Industrial Applications. Thomas had been attending the conference, but it was rather unfortunate that he was called away on urgent business due the loss of the De Beers NT-07 airship at its mast in Botswana because of severe weather. No doubt this will be reported elsewhere. As a result Bernd Sträter, the previous CEO of ZLT and our conference chairman, stepped up to the podium to present the paper.

As most people know, ZLT is a leading company in the development and operation of airships and this paper reflected the high standards and professionalism of ZLT. The paper gives an overview about the Zeppelin NT airship and information about some of the projects it has been used to serve. We certainly hope that the incident in Botswana will not cause problems for ZLT or inhibit their business. Nonetheless, weather issues need to be looked at by the industry (as a whole) to see how best such losses may be prevented.

26) Presented by Ronald Hochstetler, this paper from his associate Ananthakrishna Sarma at SAIC (not there) about Optimization of Airship Routes for Weather under the circumstances was a pertinent topic to follow as Robert’s next item, since it highlights the issue. Being as light as air airships are delicate structures but, as any balloonist knows, when drifting with the wind there is calm – due to low or zero relative airspeed. Restraining or directing them against wind currents will always be a problem due to their great size. Adopting the minimum energy solution therefore, like balloonists who attempt global flights by getting into the jet stream and then letting it take them at quite high speeds across lands and oceans, is a way to deal with the issue. LTA aircraft may sail the skies using air currents to best advantage this way (as Hugo Eckner advocated and did). An algorithm for route planning was expounded, which no doubt will be an important tool in the future for operators and pilots. Airships on the ground, however, need further treatment.

27) I took some time out, so am not sure if this next paper was presented, since it was said to be withdrawn. Shame, because Grant Carichner was there (one of the panellists in the plenary session) and it would have been good to hear about the developments of the Lockhead Martin project. Hopefully we will get to see his paper Hybrid Airships: A Modern Perspective another time.

28) The next paper of Robert’s session, Effect of Wind on the Aerodynamic Drag of a High Altitude Airship was an addition to the programme given by Behnam Behesti, from the Institute of Energy Technology, Zurich, Switzerland. I returned during this paper, so cannot say very much, except (from reviewing the actual paper) it provided useful input from water tank towing tests to determine the flow over the hull, which is a scaling effect that makes such testing effective. The last paper also shows how such comparisons between water and airborne vessels are possible. Benham also undertook flow visualisation studies over the empennage, complimenting the water tank trials.

29) Speaking for himself this time, Ronald Hochstetler was Robert’s next presenter, there to tell us about an idea for the Establishment of a Transport Airship Competition. The LTA aircraft industry certainly needs a boost to help projects develop and this proposal by Ron, who knows the business well, was a very interesting suggestion that drew audience participation – who wanted to ask questions and provide further input. Ron gave an outline of typical competitions in the past from the Deutsch de la Meurthe prize, which Santos Dumont took in Paris (19 October 1901) with his airship Number 6, to modern day events, such as the recent “X-Prize” competition for the first commercial space ship. He also talked about various ways that such a competition could be held. If readers of the commentary also would like to make input we should be glad to hear what people think.

30) Always a delight to hear Richard van Treuren speak, Robert’s final presenter and the final speaker of the conference, who gave us a talk on Comparing 1928 Technology and Operation: USS Argonaut (SS-166) and Graf Zeppelin (LZ-127). Naturally this was from his research of historical aspects but where he found many parallels between submarines and airships. These parallels were well portrayed by his paper, which concentrated on the particular vessels of his subject. This also was a pleasant reflection on former times but with a lesson for engineers in the subject to use history and such parallels for new developments.

Concluding Remarks

It was a good friendly conference giving people from the LTA aircraft industry chance to network and keep up with latest developments. I certainly enjoyed the three days in Belfast, my first opportunity to visit the city and have a small chance to savour its ambiance – mainly lunchtimes and an evening walk.

It was noticeable this year that over half of the papers were by people from academic establishments, who were there showing their capabilities and readiness to serve the industry. Yes, some key industry people were there, but not in such great numbers as previous years, perhaps reflecting the lack of investment for this key sector of the aircraft industry.

It was also good that the AIAA made it possible for the LTA-TC to hold the conference in Europe (certainly making it easier for me to attend) alongside the ATIO conference people. Whilst the ATIO conference was bigger, the quality certainly was not better, as we were treated to excellent papers in the LTA conference of a high standard. The papers are all available from the AIAA, details below.

Hope to see and talk with you at the next event, wherever. For those who can’t wait, see details following.

Cheers, Charles

And this concludes our coverage, if you want to know more please don't hesitate to contact us. You can also get a PDF of the full Commentary at it also contains contact data of Charles and the AIAA and a list of all the Sessions with their AIAA Code so that you can get them from the AIAA Website.

Commentary of the AIAA’s 17th Lighter-Than-Air (LTA) Systems Technology Conference
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