The Dynalifter, a 120-ft-long, heavier-than-air, two-seat blimp/airplane hybrid lands like an airplane so it doesn't need a ground crew like traditional airships, say designers Brian Martin and Robert Rist.
Neither gentleman has an aeronautical background. The pair, staff workers at Mount Union College, hired Daniel Raymer, formerly of Lockheed Martin, to design the craft based on their sketches. Future versions of the 2,200-lb prototype could be as large as a 200-ton freighter. Other uses could include aerial advertising, personal transportation, search and rescue, temporary cell-phone towers, firefighting, and military support. The airships might also transport natural resources from remote parts of Canada and Asia.
Tests of the Dynalifter won't happen until at least August, when its creators plan to circle the airship around the Barber (Ohio) Airport. It is now almost 80% finished, and about 100 people have been involved in building it. Development and construction cost about $500,000.
The design is unique in that, like a blimp, the craft will use helium for 50% of its lift. But the remaining lift will come from four wings and propellers. An aluminum spine runs the length of the prototype, and two patented towerlike structures support the spine, wings, gas-powered engines, cockpit, and landing gear.
The Dynalifter has a rigid shape and gasbags. It can take off and land on only 4,000 ft of runway. The prototype is designed to lift just two people, but a planned 990-ft heavy freighter could carry 160 tons of cargo at 100 mph. For comparison, a Boeing 747 freighter can haul 124 tons at 565 mph.