As you can see, my airship design has reached a much more advanced stage. I will be constructing a balsa/lightweight plastic 20' flight test test model in my 2 car garage over the winter. Once the airframe passes some tests not conducted in a computer generated wind tunnel then hopefully it will be on to building an even bigger one. This finished Colossus will measure 160' in overall length and 72' wide for the airframe and she'll stand 118' from the strut to the main rudder.
Powered by 12 electric 6 blade vectored thrust props which will be able to steer the craft in something like the airship version of three rectangular arducopters bolted to each other. Not only will the housings pivot to allow more stable ascent/descent, the props also pivot out within the housing to allow lateral thrust capibilities.She'll be very maneuverable, and computer testing indicates the airframe will capable of some new maneuvers previously unknown to rigid and semi-rigid airframes such as lateral crabbing, and pivoting in a full 360 ciricle on her center-point within her own shiplength while making a vertical ascent or descent. This is a design change which can enable much safer landings and take-offs in windy conditions and perhaps prevent the pilot error which led to the hindenburg diaster from ever happening again.
The connection pylons between the main hull and the flight nacelles are airfoils which have air current forced over them by the forward engines. This adds to the lift and stability of the craft allowing it to reach higher speeds than have previously been attained by similar craft, and is one of the design features which should enable it to perform some fairly impressive maneuvers once in the air.
The main hull is semi-rigid with a pressurized envelope, similar to the Zeppelin-NT, however with a different internal framing configuration (obviously such would be necessary) and the flight nacelles have a lightweight rigid configuration with semi-pressurized helium cells.
She will be able to be operated fully autonomously, remotely operated by a single pilot wile the drones operate autonomously, or the gondola can easily be reconfigured to allow a single pilot to physically control the vessel if desired. The gondola also houses the auxilliary electric generator to allow for operation in a cloudy environment or if the solar electric system fails for whatever reason.
The battery banks providing power to each of the engine-pairs are located amidships and each nacelle is independently powered and recharged. The odd pattern of the solar cells are based on the weight of the lightweight flexible amorphous panels I could find information on. That pattern represents the best weight distribution to be able to achieve independent powering.
The drone launch and recovery system, mechanically, will be very similar to the original system designed for the USS Macon, Akron, and Los Angeles. However the drones will have cradle supports which lower fore and aft (not detailed in these photos, nor is the drone fuselage configuration to enable launch/recovery)
She's carrying 8 scaled down lightweight electric versions of the MQ-1 which are recharged by the on-board solar system. The drone wingspan is 18 feet. It is capable of carry drones with up to a 24' wingspan and gross weight of 350 lbs per plane. and obviously the system could be reconfigured to accomodate smaller craft. The way it works is really cool. The craft are stored so close together that instead of having a lowering design for launch, I worked it in to the craft are stored at different distances from the hull. The fore and aft drones are stowed 7" lower than the amidships drones.
The drone launch process will have to occur in a paired sequence for balance purposes, and the thrust configuration greatly stabilizes the craft and makes her a lot easier to balance, so the stowage level only makes it easier to conduct the launch sequence and it keeps the drones closest to the most balanced point. Once all the drones are away, the launch/recovery hooks raise up into the rigid hull of the flight nacelle and are kept close to the hull to increase aerodynamics. When it is time to recover the craft, the L/R trapeze descends to its full length to allow recovery of in-flight craft after others have already bee recovered.
The on-board sensor package is pretty modular actually. You can do a lot with this airship configuration. I have hard mounted fore and aft gimbals on the main hull and amdships gimbals on each flight nacelle. The bay in the main hull is also a sensor bay and acess panel. Fuel stowage for the auxilliary generator is in wing tankage in the two airfoils and the ship will carry approximately 4-8 hours worth of fuel currently, but more fuel storage can be added.
Unfortunately the laws of physics concerning rigid and semi-rigid airships dictate that the 20' model will be able to lift it's own airframe and that's about it. I should be able to include a single mini-cam on a gimbal but that's really it. She won't be able to carry a functional payload until she's at least 80' in overall length and even then we're talking some pretty small (under 100 lb each) planes.