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Inside Aeroscraft, the future of luxury airships (pictures)

Aeroscraft may be the future of luxury travel. It's an airborne hotel with large staterooms, dining areas, theaters, and casinos.

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James Martin
James Martin is the Managing Editor of Photography at CNET. His photos capture technology's impact on society - from the widening wealth gap in San Francisco, to the European refugee crisis and Rwanda's efforts to improve health care. From the technology pioneers of Google and Facebook, photographing Apple's Steve Jobs and Tim Cook, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Google's Sundar Pichai, to the most groundbreaking launches at Apple and NASA, his is a dream job for any documentary photography and journalist with a love for technology. Exhibited widely, syndicated and reprinted thousands of times over the years, James follows the people and places behind the technology changing our world, bringing their stories and ideas to life.
James Martin
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Aeroscraft: The future of luxury travel?

A hybrid airship coming soon may be the future of luxury travel. It's an airborne hotel with large staterooms, dining areas, theaters, and casinos.

The Aeroscraft is being planned by Worldwide Aeros Corporation and is the result of 25 years of work. It's descended from the canceled DARPA WALRUS Hybrid Ultra Large Aircraft (HULA) airship, a transport vehicle that aimed to carry as much as 500 tons of cargo but was cancelled in 2010.

Aeros says the Aeroscraft family's smallest member -- the rigid-structure, 180 passenger, 20-ton capacity ML866 -- will be 310 feet in length, have a top speed of 120 knots, and a flight ceiling of around 12,000 feet. The company also plans two larger versions, the 60-ton capacity ML868 and the 500-ton capacity ML86X.
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Logistical needs

Aeroscraft also sees its vehicles as capable of providing large-scale deliveries to remote locations. Here, an artist's rendering shows the Aeroscraft delivering wind turbines.

Aeroscraft's unique Rigid Variable Buoyancy Air Vehicle system has an Internal Ballast Control designed to allow it to offload cargo without using ballast. With a rigid structure, the Aeroscraft can control lift at all stages with its Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) capabilities and carry its maximum payload while hovering -- and it needs no hangar facility or specialized ports, making it friendly to all kinds of transportation services.
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Aeroscraft flying over Hong Kong

For the first time in history, an aircraft will be designed to control and adjust buoyant and dynamic lift, creating unique capabilities beyond what has traditionally been available. The aircraft is poised to disrupt the air transportation industry as we know it today, and provide tremendous utility opportunities for global adventures, according to the company.
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Aeroscraft luxury stateroom

An artist's rendering of the Aeroscraft Luxury Stateroom. This is really flying in style.
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Aeroscraft lounge

A CGI rendering of a passenger lounge aboard the Aeroscraft.
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Aeroscraft conference room

An artist's CGI rendering of one of the Aeroscraft conference rooms.
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Rigid structure

The construction of the Aeroscraft's rigid structure.
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A new kind of transport

Hybrid airship technology may be the wave of the future for USTRANSCOM, the U.S. Transportation Command which manages all global air, land and sea transportation for the Department of Defense. Last month, General William M. Fraser III, USTRANSCOM's commander, visited Aeroscraft to see firsthand the development of hybrid airship technology.

"As this technology continues to evolve, hybrid airships may one day add to our options for delivering sustainment on the battlefield or in response to a humanitarian crisis," Fraser said.
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World's first Internal Ballast Control

The main operational challenge that Airships and Hybrid Airships face is the inability to control static lift while cargo is off-loaded. The static lift that comes from helium gas is responsible for lifting tens of tons of cargo. But once the cargo is off-loaded, Airships and Hybrid Airships become extremely light, and the static lift causes them to float away. During this process, they require ballast, typically dirt or water, to keep them anchored to the ground.

Aeroscraft's first-in-the-world Internal Ballast Control system is different in that it allows the craft to off-load cargo without using ballast. Built with a rigid structure, the Aeroscraft can control lift at all stages with its Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) capabilities and carry maximum payload hovering.
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View inside Aeroscraft

With a 12,000 mile range; heavy load capacity of up to 500 tons; and vertical takeoff and landing and hover capabilities, the Aeroscraft may be a transport vehicle unlike any other.
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Remote deliveries

The Aeroscraft's long range and ability to land on any terrain and in remote locations could be an attractive method of delivering a large amount of cargo from a centralized location. Will it actually work, though? For that, we'll just have to wait and see.

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