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Sooner or later, the practices we call “green” will have to expand from the token gestures we make today (turning down the thermostat and driving hybrids) to a nearly universal avoidance of oxidizing fossil carbon. In terms of aviation, it's time to start thinking about how to move people and goods, in commercial quantities, with a zero-carbon footprint; indeed there are several schemes afoot. The pioneering Boeing and Lange/DLR fuel-cell prototype airplanes are an encouraging sign up to a point, but it seems more than bold to suggest that these models can be scaled up to commercial adequacy. The USAF/DARPA high-altitude Intel blimp provides ample carrying capacity and a ceiling of 65,000 feet, but again, not much of a useful turn of speed. Popular Science has reported on multiple-gas vehicles like the Sanswire STS-111 Stratellite and airship concepts such as Igor Pasternak's Aeroscraft. Of these, only the last seems to be well-targeted toward the goal, according to some accounts. This undertakes to apply some of the perennial concerns participants to a global fleet of dirigibles featuring fuel-cell-powered propulsion. That is, it adopts a global-system view taking the development of suitable vehicles for granted, rather than focusing on the vehicle innovations as their developers must primarily do. Discussions include performance and safety requirements for the airships, new terminal area concepts, collaborative-autonomous situational awareness and collision avoidance, weather considerations, in-flight refueling and towing, and intermodal possibilities.
Date of Publication: Oct. 2011