In two years’ time, the freight industry should have a new tool at its disposal. Currently under development is the Aeroscraft airship, of which the largest type will have a range of up to 6,000 nautical miles and a 250-ton payload.
Unlike the airline industry, though, the airship will be able to pick up containerised freight. And 250 tons is the point at which the airship becomes cheaper to operate than a truck, according to the company.
Igor Pasternak, the head of Aeroscraft, sees a future for the airship operating point-to-point, then giving boxes to trucks at hubs for onward de6livery. The airship will be able to operate a vertical take-off and landing, with the freight door located directly underneath it so it can simply pick up a container and move away.
Pasternak envisages its use first of all in remote areas without infrastructure such as runways – or roads. But he believes it could also have a role in the traditional freight space, carrying produce from Africa to Europe, for example. Flying at 80km per hour, it would take a day or two.
Aeroscraft, he says, has no interest in running a freight business, however. To that end it has signed agreements with Icelandair and Cargolux, giving it an initial hub in Iceland for areas without significant infrastructure, while Cargolux will focus on exploring possible logistics services in Europe and North Africa.
The company is currently seeking m to finance what it hopes will be a fleet of 22 airships by 2020. It is selling 1m shares at to institutional and high net worth individuals. Along with the 250-ton payload model, Aeroscraft is also creating four models which can carry 66 tons of cargo and travel 3,100 nautical miles, to be used for training and special missions.