In my drive to bring you all the news in unmanned aviation, interesting or otherwise, I feel compelled to present this video. Although the tendency is to titter, this latest video by Sanswire-TAO actually does show something quite interesting - an unmanned airship that is easily maneuvered and handled at low speed and altitude.
The video shows rapid launch and recovery testing of a 75ft-long subscale prototype of the company's STS-111 medium-altitude surveillance UAV - a 111ft-long multi-segmented non-rigid airship. As we have written before, the segments make the envelope flexible, and allow the airship to "wiggle" through gusts, making it more controllable - and maneuverable, as the video shows.
Bouyancy is provided by helium in the first segment only. The other sections are filled with what Sanswire and Frankfurt-based airship developer TAO Technologies call "fuelgas", which has the same density as air. As the gas is compressed and burned by the engine, air is pumped into the envelope to maintain the airship's mass and shape.
The "airchain" design allows the airship to be folded for storage and transport, then unfolded and inflated for launch "within hours", the US-German joint venture says. The engine is gimballed to provide thrust-vector control for launch and recovery. Together, these avoid the need for a blimp hangar and mooring station, it says.