Calgary, Alberta-based Aviation Capital Enterprises has released a picture of the SkyTug cargo hybrid airship being designed and built for it by Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works. The SkyTug is a scaled-up version of the Skunks' P-791 demonstrator, flown in 2006, and looks a lot like the hybrid air vehicle Lockheed offered, unsuccessfully, for the US Army's Long-Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle (LEMV) program, won by Northrop Grumman with the UK's Hybrid Air Vehicles.Concept: Lockheed Martin
Aviation Capital says an initial experimental-category aircraft is planned to fly in 2012 and be used for flight tests and customer demonstrations. A second aircraft is to fly early in 2013 and be used for FAA certification. Aviation Captical plans to have Lockheed begin production of the initial 20-ton-payload SkyTug in 2013. A larger 50- to 70-ton-payload version is also planned.
The company hopes to sell the aircraft to operators in the oil and gas and other sectors that want to lift heavy and bulky loads long distances in remote or inaccessible regions. Like lifting drilling equipment and pipleline sections over the tundra of northern Canada as a less expensive and more environmental alternative to building short-lived temporary roads or billion-dollar permanent roads.
A hybrid airship is heavier-than-air, with the static lift from helium bouyancy being supplemented by aerodynamic lift in forward flight and vectored thrust for takeoff and landing. It takes off and lands like a conventional aircraft, which makes it easier to handle than a lighter-than-air airship, and the SkyTug has air-cushion landing gear to enable it to operate from unimproved airstrips and water.