Clever Design

SkyLifters were conceived using proven lighter-than-air (LTA) principles and established aircraft operational 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 while hovering in changing wind conditions.

Taking-off and landing are the most challenging actions of flying. In our case we call it Launch and Capture, and the new shape requires new solutions. Below are photographs of some R&D that we have undertaken.  They demonstrate invaluable knowledge and experience of the methodologies required for the SkyLifters.

Lab tests

Building lab-size models to test theories

Prototypes

Full-size manufacture and handling testing. Lots of learning.

Current project activity

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SkyLifter arrangement (aircraft Type)

SkyLifter aircraft share a common arrangement of a gas-filled lenticular-shaped aerostat (enabling buoyancy to float) and an underslung pod. The pod position helps with stability and incorporates habitable areas as well as the main aircraft systems for power, control and communication.

The aircraft feature propellers for thrust and, if desired, the aircraft may float endlessly without power. Therefore, with minimal cost, the 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.

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.

Symmetrical discus-shaped (lenticular) aerostat (a 'flattened' balloon).

The omni-directional shape avoids the need for SkyLifters to turn and face into wind, greatly simplifying the handling process for disposable payloads.

Even distribution of payload

External, regular-spaced suspension lines avoid the need to build heavy and complex internal support structures, thereby lowering the cost of MRO, and helping to stabilise the aircraft.

Propulsion and directional control system

Propellers provide almost instant vectored thrust to any 360-degree direction. These supplement the natural passive stability arrangement with an active automated dampening control.

Performance

SkyLifters are not designed to fly as fast as jets or rotor-craft. We are not competing with fast-transit operations. At around 40 knots (80kmph) a SkyLifter is used for non-time-sensitive applications, of which there are many.

And SkyLifters have a low demand for ground infrastructure and therefore can operate in rural areas. With low maintenance requirements (especially when compared to helicopters), the operational utilisation rate is high. In other words, more time spent flying and earning revenue, with less time being serviced on the ground.

Flight simulation

Dr.-Ing. Thomas Chatzikonstantinou (Germany) undertook an independent, first level fluid-structure interaction (FSI) investigation of the SkyLifter 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.

Adina is a comprehensive Finite Element Simulation software for Structures, Thermal, CFD, EM, FSI, TMC and Multiphysics. Dr.-Ing. Chatzikonstantinou ([email protected]) is a premier world authority regarding the analysis of aero-elastic effects on flexible vehicle structures, velocities, accelerations and flow field variables.  SkyLifter was privileged to access his lab and is sincerely grateful for his continued support.

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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 fail in their solution-logic. And there are reasons why the skies are empty of airships. Copy at your peril or simply contact us and we can help with your own designs.

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