Friday, November 25, 2011

Solar Power Airships - Awesome!

Jetsons here we come! Ecogeek his a home run again in their latest email. If you don't all ready get the email update, get signed up! Among the interesting stories in this weeks email was one about a new technology concept that deals with airships. - Solar Ship is Half Airship and Half Flying Wing

Solar Airships

The idea is basically there would be a light airship which would be made even lighter with a pocket of helium. It would then take much less energy to lift off and fly. The great part is that while it is filled with helium it isn't burning it or using it in anyway, so you never have to refill it unless there is a leak of some kind.

Even better is that the top of the airship is covered with solar panels which it appears could produce enough energy to fly the airship. What that means is that it would have an indefinite flying range. Once it took off the solar panels would power it to where ever you want to go for as long as you want to go!

The trick there is that in order for the solar panel to produce all the power you need then the cargo weight is going to have to be very light. If you want to carry heavier items and deliver them far away then you are going to need some kind of fuel. In this case you are talking about a hybrid of some kind. So like a Chevy Volt, the solar panel's produced electricity would take you as far as it could and then when depleted the fuel would kick in and power the airship.

Cheaper then Trucks?

I guess someone has done some research and is knocking in the ideal of airships in general, even if powered by solar or other cheaper hybrid means. Essentially their argument is that when you compare the cost involved with these airships would still be cheaper to transfer goods and cargo in general by 18 wheelers.

The article on Ecogeek made a really good point though. That cheaper truck cost assumes there are all ready maintained roads available to drive on. It would be kind of hard for a truck to travel across a forest, where an airship could take off and land for the same cost whether it was traveling over the forest or a populated area. So because of these these airships are getting additional attention for their lower cost to travel to remote areas. Places like the Arctic and more general areas that are currently considered too remote for delivery of items.

For me I think a concept like this is great for two reasons. One it obviously will serve a need that isn't currently being served so it's a great invention. Imagine if you have a sick child in a remote area that is saved because these airships exist!! The other great thing that comes to mind is that this is a great example of energy efficiency being built in right from the concept level of a new invention/product!

Typically when there is a new invention it's all about the idea. I mean this makes sense. The idea is lets get this thing working and then when we perfect it, if the public yells for it we'll try to figure out how to make it more energy efficient. In this case right from the beginning the makers seem to understand that we as a population are going to have to live with less energy. So everything we create is going to have to use less energy. So instead of coming up with an idea and running with it before looking at the impacts, this time it's part of the invention process itself!

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