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Apr 26, 2019, 06:08 AM
Melbourne, Australia
Thread OP

New 15m solar powered blimp design in the UK

This looks interesting - a university team in the UK has done some indoor shakedown tests of a new mid-size solar powered hybrid blimp.

The propulsion system sounds a little unusual; apparently they change the buoyancy cyclically and use the rise or fall to move forward (effectively 'gliding' down or up I guess).

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Apr 27, 2019, 09:19 AM
Registered User

Phoenix Blimp prototype

Yeah, it was time for someone to try something different on airships.

But there is so little information, there are many things that I would like to know.
Not sure If they choose that propulsive method because it is more energy efficient than simple propellers or maybe the efficiency is a bit lower but they can also control at will the altitude to take advantage of different air currents or in order to land for maintenance, all that with one single motor.

Something that I will risk to said for sure, that this thing with so few solar panels, can not counter sustained wings of more than 20 km/h for a long period of time, eventually it may be able to go back to certain spot if time is not important.
Solar panels in the wing may get shadow from the blimp at certain angles, maybe the top of the blimp area is reserved for solar panels that would power the pseudo satellite that would carry onboard depending its function.

I am curious if it use a rigid pressure vessel inside, or something more similar to the HPE from the Aeroscraft, with the only difference than instead compressing helium, it would compress the air?
I imagine that it would rise vertically using just buoyancy, and then when is on top it would start to compress air to advance forward exploiting that potential energy as a roller coaster, then in the bottom altitude it release that pressure (not sure if it would gain much thrust with that) which it would start to rise vertically again.

Is a nice concept, but I will like to know with more detail the benefits.
Thanks for the news.
Apr 27, 2019, 12:43 PM
Go small or go home
ruzam's Avatar
I imagine they're using the same principle as under water gliders Not very fast, but incredibly efficient and able to travel large distances on very little energy.

I've read about other blimp projects planning to use the same approach to fly above the jet stream. Essentially becoming a stable very low orbit satellite.
Apr 27, 2019, 08:00 PM
Registered User
Hi Ruzam, yes you are right, I amaze that I never hear about this method considering that I have lost plenty of time trying to imagine ways in the past to exploit buoyancy in different ways.
And of course when it rise it also move forward instead only vertically as I previously said because it generates potential energy when it changes its buoyancy that can be exploited in forward movement too.

According to its efficiency benefits not sure if I understand correctly yet, I guess is all related to drag, because drag increase with the square of the speed, so going slow increase its efficiency, and propellers usually need to spin fast which it generates drag issues related to fluid dynamics, although I am not sure yet.

I would love to read more about the efficiency aspect of this system vs propperlers.
Apr 28, 2019, 01:07 AM
Melbourne, Australia
Thread OP
I'm a little cautious myself; the underwater gliders I believe don't have to fight strong currents, and have a speed of ~2-3 knots - based on the minimal info, and the demo video, this isn't much faster... especially if they're intending to go to 20,000m it will have trouble with strong winds. It may be able to use buoyancy like project loon, but it doesn't seem fast enough really for outdoors work?
Apr 28, 2019, 10:19 PM
Registered User
This version seems like a prototype, not sure if this one in special can reach 20000 m, the payload at such height would have to be super minimum, even less if we count that the pressure vessel where air is compressed may represent a big part of the airship dry weight.
About the speed, yeah it would be slow, as I said before, I dont think this can counter sustained wings higher than 20 kmh, but maybe the average wings can be counter if you dont hurry to go back to your defaut position.

One advantage of this vs underwater gliders is the posibility to use solar panels to extract energy.
Although UG can use the ocean thermal gradient as a source of work.
May 06, 2019, 06:46 PM
Registered User
There is nothing new under the sun.
May 08, 2019, 05:42 PM
Melbourne, Australia
Thread OP
How marvellous! The Aereon seems a very impressive effort for 1863, and an ingenious way of moving given the lack of good lightweight engines at the time.

However I think as a means of propulsion it is pretty limited - but perhaps the craft could be flown similarly to a glider, following air currents and updrafts. Unlike a glider though, it could also make use of downdrafts, which would be neat...

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