Self-Powered Aeroplane With Lungs Tested in Portsmouth

By Gary Cutlack on at

This airship thing is not an airship, despite the visual clue of having the shape of an airship. It's one potential contender for the next generation of autonomous flying machine, using the weird science of variable-buoyancy propulsion to move itself along.

Hence it has little wings to generate lift when required, although the really clever bits are hidden from view inside the vehicle's massive tummy. That houses two gas reservoirs, one housing buoyant helium for lifting it up, and another that's designed to be filled as required with compressed air. This compressed air is heavier than the surrounding atmosphere, so it can bring the machine down, and is shot out to propel it forward. And there you have all the mechanics needed to fly. Slowly, but still.

The idea is that it could one day be an alternative to low-level satellites, as teaming this lung system with solar panels ought to allow the machine to fly virtually indefinitely, without so many troublesome moving parts as traditional drones. Plus with a possible maximum flight height of 20km for production models, they could go into business taking rich people up for brief near-space experiences to Instagram about.  [UHI via BBC]