SkyLifters were conceived using established lighter-than-air (LTA) principles and traditional aircraft practices. They are a new type of airship with a different shape, designed to be omni-directional; effectively with no front, back or sides. This facilitates the operation of the aircraft to vertically raise or set down payloads, transporting nearly anything, anywhere.
Dr.-Ing. Thomas Chatzikonstantinou (Germany) undertook an independent, first level fluid-structure interaction (FSI) investigation of the SL25 design using ADINA simulation software. The conclusions were that the configuration works very well (as expected) and therefore is viable. The videos below illustrate some of the simulations.
Air direction and velocity
Here are photographs of significant projects and R&D that we have undertaken. They demonstrate invaluable knowledge and experience of the technologies and methodologies required for the SkyLifters.
SkyLifter arrangement (aircraft Type)
SkyLifter aircraft share a common arrangement of a helium-filled lenticular-shaped aerostat (enabling buoyancy to float) and an underslung pod. The pod incorporates habitable areas as well as the main aircraft systems for power, control and communication.
The aircraft feature cycloidal propellers for thrust and, if desired, the aircraft may float endlessly without power. Therefore, with minimal cost, flight endurance is exceptional.
The design cleverly integrates already proven systems with SkyLifter's own innovations. We have been careful to keep things as simple as possible without compromising performance and safety.
For example, three clever features of the arrangement are:
- Symmetrical discus-shaped (lenticular) aerostat (a 'flattened' balloon). This avoids the need for SkyLifters to turn and face into wind, greatly simplifying payload handling because they are omni-directional.
- Even distribution of payload via regular-spaced suspension lines, helping to avoid the need to build heavy and complex internal support structures.
- Propulsion and directional control system with Cycloidal propellers that provide almost instant vectored thrust to any 360-degree direction. The system also provides additional active automated stability control.
- The vertical tube that is seen in the middle connecting the aerostat and the pod is a flexible non-structural two-way service trunk for personnel and systems. Our smaller airships do not need the service trunk.
The simplicity of the design arrangement may seem obvious, but it has taken many years of hard work and investment to create the overall package. Our intention is to enable practical and cost-effective turnkey solutions for various markets.
Are you thinking of copying our designs to build your own? Go ahead and try, but beware; there are numerous critical system features and technical aspects not shown or mentioned here. We have seen many experienced HTA and LTA aircraft engineers falter in their solution-logic. Copy at your peril or simply email us and we can help with your own designs.
SkyLifters are not designed to fly as fast as jets and rotor-craft. At around 80km/h the larger SkyLifter aircraft may only have the speed of a truck, but they are not expected to undertake fast-transit applications. Our intention is for them to get in close to the original pick-up point of the payload and deliver it directly to the end destination, thereby avoiding multiple intermediate hand-offs; saving time and reducing transport risk. So the overall transit time using a SkyLifter may in fact be less than using a helicopter, and certainly less than using a winged aircraft, but there are significant economic gains for non-time-critical payloads
The family of aircraft have a low demand for ground infrastructure and therefore can operate in rural areas. We anticipate low operating costs and low maintenance requirements (compared to helicopters), enabling a high rate of operational utilisation. In other words, more time spent flying and earning revenue, with less time parked on the ground.
A hangar is advisable for first assembly of the aircraft and for major maintenance tasks. However, afterwards, with the aid of a ground skirt while moored, the aircraft can become its own shelter and so enable maintenance of aircraft systems.
The short video below (of 1 minute duration) illustrates SkyLifter's assembly complex. The domes are air-pressure-stabilised fabric structures.
Scaling the SkyLifter
The SkyLifter scaling chart below shows payload versus aerostat diameter. This chart is indicative only so it should not be used for technical calculations. It is a coincidence that a 150 metre diameter SkyLifter has a payload of 150 tonne.