Skylifter airship could carry whole buildings

Australian firm Skylifter has created a flying saucer-shaped airship that it says could be used to drop entire hospitals into disaster zones – or be the newest toy for the super-rich.

The 500-foot disc can lift up to 150 tonnes, says the company, and transport it up to 2,000 miles – many times the performance of a heavy cargo helicopter, for example, most of which can only handle up to 20 tonnes.

It’s filled with lighter-than-air gas and uses aerostatic lift to stay airborne, with cycloidal propellers to provide thrust. These look rather like paddle-wheels and give precision control in any direction, says the company; rather important if you’re lugging a multi-storey building around in the air.

The cockpit hangs beneath, and the ship can be piloted by either one or two people. Power comes from biodiesel and solar generators, and the ship can move at up to 50 miles per hour.

So far, there’s only a tiny prototype, but the company is working on larger versions, with the full 500-foot version scheduled within three years.

As well as humanitarian applications, the company says it will be useful in any construction project on difficult terrain, such as isolated, mountainous or waterlogged areas.

“Pipe-laying, windmill construction, pylon installations and bridge construction are seen as typical scenarios where the SkyLifter’s unique environmentally friendly cost effective ways make it the right choice for the job,” says Skylifter.

“Further into the future a SkyPalace variant is under consideration, for luxury air-cruising,” says the company. It’s envisaging three options: a ‘day-trip’ version, a Trekker pod with a capacity of 80 guests for long-haul cruising, and a personalized option for sale: “similar to a mega-yacht, but obviously more exclusive, more spacious and able to travel over land,” says the company.