The Gang Down Under Is At It Again – Giving Us Another Exciting Path Towards Our Green Future
SkyLifter Pty Ltd was founded in 2008 and is based in Perth, Western Australia, well actually Joondalup, 15.5 miles (25km) north of Perth. The company already has active field offices in Europe and Asia and research and development, manufacturing and testing taking place around the world. Probably because it doesn’t take a crystal ball to see the potential of this exciting new company developing their futuristic innovative vertical pick-up and delivery aircraft capable of carrying 150 tons, a genuine heavy airlift solution that will take over where helicopters leave off in terms of payload and range capability. With helicopter technology limited to payloads of up to 20 tons, a SkyLifter’s 150 ton vertical pick-up and delivery capabilities of payloads of any shape, any location, and any distance, will present a paradigm shift for the heavy airlift industry.
SkyLifter uses aerostatic lift (a buoyant force that does not require movement through the surrounding air mass) to remain airborne and propellers are used to direct its flight. There is no need for aerodynamic lift (depending on an airfoil, a streamlined shape, and speed). In fact, there is no need for any wings, fins or control surfaces. The aerostat envelope (balloon) contains LTA (lighter-than-air) gas that enables buoyancy, derived from the surrounding air according to Archimedes’ principle (the buoyant force on a submerged object is equal to the weight of the fluid that is displaced by the object). In this respect the atmosphere (air) behaves in a similar way to liquids. The effect of SkyLifter’s aerostat limits descent rate, even when overall weight is substantially greater than buoyancy, this means SkyLifter can descend safely without power.
The cycloidal propellers are installed from the aerostat providing thrust in any horizontal direction desired, the cycloidal propellers on the pod provide thrust in the vertical plane for ascending and descending. The aircraft remains upright when moving forwards, backwards, sideways, up, down or rotating around its vertical axis. Due to the aerostat’s lenticular profile (like a discus) it has no apparent front, side or back. SkyLifters therefore are omni-directional.
SkyLifter Materials and Design
SkyLifter’s aerostat is an inflated envelope made from strong laminated fabric. The chambers inside are made of similar materials but of lighter weight. The pod below (underslung module) is mostly metallic (typical aluminium airframe) and also uses composite mouldings. The suspension lines are similar to ships mooring lines (strong synthetic fiber ropes).
Seeking to minimize carbon emissions and the fuel burn rate, SkyLifter uses biodiesel fuel and solar collectors to generate electricity, which is used to power the cycloidal propellers and aircraft systems. The aerostat design is ideal for large arrays of solar collectors because a large portion of the upper surface faces the sun most of the time (more so than cigar-shaped aerostats which can be hampered by the need to face the wind). The biodiesel engines and their drive-train and water recovery systems are all placed in an engine room on one level of the pod. This ensures easy access, maintenance (even in flight) and much reduced outside noise.
Although SkyLifter will have 2 pilot positions, they are designing it to be operable by a single pilot. Modern avionics and navigation instruments will be used and flight clearances are similar to helicopter operations because it flies in a similar way. The flight deck is the circular room seen under the main pod module. This position gives the crew a 360 degree view of the surrounding airspace and ground operations. As well as many monitoring sensors around the aircraft, the pilot will also be able to view all around via CCTV cameras and lights (something currently not available to pilots of other aircraft).
This omni-directional characteristic has great benefits because it makes geo-stationary positioning (to pickup or deliver payloads) much easier. Without a front or back, the aircraft technically always faces into wind. Vectored thrust from the cycloidal propellers ensures changes to wind direction are easily countered without any need to turn and with much less chance of being blown off station. It is ideal for applications at any altitude. Changes to compass heading, acceleration and slowing all happen very gradually and gently, so there are virtually no g-forces felt.
As natural disasters becomes stronger and more frequent, what a godsend it would be, without needing to land, to gently deliver 150,000 liters (nearly 40,000 gallons), of potable water or food aid in one go, delivering a 150 ton prefabricated hospital direct to a disaster zone and then evacuating 1200 walking wounded, per lift, from any location and bypassing clogged or unserviceable transport arteries. This will be SkyLifter in an emergency response role – aahh, hello FEMA, are you listening?
Lighter-than-air was the only technology that showed commercial promise as a feasible, practical and economic solution with environmental sensibility. As aerial cranes with unsurpassed capability, SkyLifters will be used in many construction projects where other terrestrial crane services are unable to work, particularly in isolated, mountainous, waterlogged and forest regions. Pipe-laying, wind-turbine construction, pylon installations and bridge construction are seen as typical scenarios where the SkyLifter’s unique environmentally friendly, cost effective ways make it the right choice for the job. The ability to relocate buildings such as housing units, large equipment and such in remote isolated area without the need to carve through access roads and damage miles and miles of virgin terrain is, quite frankly – priceless.
…. SkyLifter – as the green future unfolds.