Aircraft

Interview: Aeros CEO Igor Pasternak

Interview: Aeros CEO Igor Past...
Artists rendering of the Aeroscraft
Artists rendering of the Aeroscraft
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Artists rendering of the Aeroscraft
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Artists rendering of the Aeroscraft
Artists rendering of the Aeroscraft
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Artists rendering of the Aeroscraft
Artists rendering of the Aeroscraft
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Artists rendering of the Aeroscraft
Aeroscraft prototype under construction
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Aeroscraft prototype under construction
Igor Pasternak, founder and CEO of the Aeros Corporation
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Igor Pasternak, founder and CEO of the Aeros Corporation
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Aeroscraft prototype under construction
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Aeroscraft prototype under construction
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Aeroscraft prototype under construction
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Aeroscraft prototype under construction
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The Aeroscraft airship, with its minimal fuel consumption, vertical take-off and landing capabilities and point-to-point delivery is promising to revolutionize aviation. This radical new vehicle platform created by the Aeros Corporation in California is now entering its final stages of development and in this interview the company's founder and CEO, Igor Pasternak, talks to Gizmag about how different the Aeroscraft will be from anything else we have seen before.

Igor Pasternak, who founded Worldwide Aeros in Ukraine before moving the firm to California in 1994, is confident that the new dirigible Aeroscraft airship will get U.S. Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) approval next year and revolutionize air travel forever.

“We are working with the FAA around the requirements for the vehicle,’’ Pasternak says. “With understanding the requirements and complying with the requirements, we are already there. Now the next step is to build a full size vehicle and go through FAA testing and certification.”

At this stage, Aeros has built an Aeroscraft prototype. At 79 meters, or 260 feet, long, it is smaller than the final model. While the company initially told us that the prototype is not designed to carry a payload, Pasternak says that it can indeed be used for freight – but the payload capability is less than the 66 tons that the planned larger craft will be designed to carry when it enters commercial operation.

“The prototype is a sub-scale of the full size of the vehicle,’’ Pasternak says. “It’s 50 per cent of the length of the full-scale vehicle. This vehicle has all the systems and all the structure from the big one. It’s just built on a smaller scale. It’s designed as an operational payload vehicle. It carries some proportion of payload but the most important part of this vehicle is it has a rigid structure built from the same elements as the 66 ton vehicle, it has the landing gear from the 66 ton vehicle, it has the flight control software of the 66 ton vehicle, it has all the elements.”

The prototype vehicle is just weeks off from being completed. When it’s finished, it will demonstrate the vertical take-off and landing and point to point delivery features of the platform. Pasternak says this makes it perfect for the commercial market.

Igor Pasternak, founder and CEO of the Aeros Corporation
Igor Pasternak, founder and CEO of the Aeros Corporation

“The aircraft is the vehicle that allows customers to make money. The advantage is you don’t need ground infrastructure. You can fly anywhere, you can land anywhere, you don’t need any ballast, you don’t need any ground crew.

“You can carry a lot of weight and at the same time, fly long distances. When you look at hybrid airships, they require a runway. The aircraft doesn’t need this, not a ground crew, not a runway, not the ballast.

“It’s a complete transportation system. It does not need infrastructure."

Potentially, Pasternak believes, these advantages could make the platform more cost effective than road or rail.

“If you’re looking at freeways and rail, you always have the interface between freeways and rail," he says. "You don’t have this interface here. You can land it anywhere and you can take off anywhere.

“If you are looking at the economics, you can never compete with a train or a truck, they are still pretty inexpensive but the moment when you start looking at delivering 66 tons and three full trucks, in some scenarios, it can be more cost effective than trucks,’’

And the potential applications?

“It can deliver food to Africa. It’s a vehicle that can bring the infrastructure to build factories in the middle of the continent where there are no roads or ports. It can be used for disaster relief or for delivery of fresh flowers

“And it’s not just the money, it’s also the time. In some cases, for example, wind turbines might take for them delivery of three weeks. Now we can deliver it in one week.

The military presents another obvious application according to Pasternak.

In terms of a business model, Aeros doesn't intend to sell the craft but will instead lease it out.

“We are selling the service, we will become the operators on a lease basis,’’ he says.“We would provide the crew, would provide the maintenance, all the requirements and the service for the customer. Our prices will be competitive with logistics companies, not just for prices but delivery time as well.”

The commercial models will have a cruising speed of 110 knots over a range of 3000 nautical miles.

“It is the speed that the market and customers need,’’ he says.

One of the keys to the new platform is its buoyancy management system. This allows the weight of the vehicle to be adjusted to suit conditions and operational needs. It is completely different from a "blimp" or something like the Hindenburg which needed a hitching post. With the Aeroscraft, there is a gas envelope above a freight chamber which reduces the buoyancy until the craft is 50 feet above the ground. Then you land it as you would a helicopter.

“The concept of the operation is absolutely new. When it comes in for a landing, say 100 feet or 50 feet and it touches the ground, at this moment you become heavier than air,’’ he says.

“From the structure stand point, all of us are familiar with the Hindenburg and Zeppelin designs, continues Pasternak. “This is different. We built a space frame that sits inside of the vehicle and around the frame we built a rigid cell. The function of the rigid cell is to have it work with the aerodynamic laws. It’s a very simple approach.

“It also allows us to build vehicles very rapidly. When you’re talking about the production of vehicles, you need the ability to build number of them in a short term and with the frames you can do this.”

The other notable aspect of the buoyancy system is that it uses helium. “We use helium these days,’’ Pasternak says. “Hydrogen is nice but it’s going to take a while to convince people to use hydrogen.”

It’s also much more fuel efficient than aircraft, again saving the customer costs. “It’s uses a diesel engine which allows you to achieve 3000 nautical miles. It’s very efficient on fuel consumption and it’s propeller driven,’’ he says. “It’s about 30 per cent more fuel efficient when compared with modern state-of –the-art aeroplanes ... and it requires normal commercial diesel fuel, not aviation grade fuel.”

Pasternak says it took the company, which employs over 100 people, four years to develop the technology which includes a smart automotive digital flight control system, enhanced envelope fabric and a robotic mooring system.

Indeed, infrastructure is kept to such a minimum that it’s designed for a single pilot.

“With the flight control system for this vehicle, it’s an innovative approach. It’s an intuitive approach. The pilot is not the captain of the ship. With the system interface, he is more the supervisor.

“It’s probably the largest aeroplane in history that requires a single pilot.”

Pasternak maintains that the great advantage of the craft is that it goes to where the customer is, wherever that may be.

“We deliver the Aeroscraft to where we find the customer. It will not go to an airport, that’s the last place where you would see this vehicle. You land it where customer needs it so that the customer isn’t thinking about delivery to the airport or the road.”

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30 comments
mooseman
It's certainly a nice-looking airship! I'd **love** to see this company succeed, and I wish Mr Pasternak all the best as he gets this great airship to the market.
Christian Nygaard
It would be cool to travel between Europe and US in one of these airships. I would look forward to having a small cabin with bedbunks, some office space and common social area onboard. I think the travel time would be around around 26 hours.
Joel Detrow
Excellent interview! I love blimps, so I'm glad to see someone recognizes their potential and is working to bring them into the modern age.
martinkopplow
Well, a very similar project (http://www.cargolifter.de/geschichte_der_cl_ag.html) has failed big time about 10 years ago in Germany. I hope this one will do better, as it offers certain advantages over 'traditional' airlifting technology.
Best, Martin
Tommo
Great idea but I would like to see how it flies in wind and what effects that would have on the ground handling. This is a problem that has plagued earlier ideas.
J. James
Martinkopplow, the aeroscraft and Cargolifter are very different vehicles. Cargolifter was flawed from the start- they intended to use a conventional LTA(lighter-than-air) airship to lift heavy cargoes, which has all sorts of associated problems. Their design was also quite inefficient- thrice the volume of the 800-foot Hindenburg(payload: 112 tons) and yet it didn't lift all that much(payload: 160 tons). Then of course there was the problems with their business model...
With the aeroscraft, you have a hybrid vehicle ideally suited for cargo operations. By being HTA(heavier-than-air) like an airplane, the airship's payload is increased dramatically, and it can offload the cargo safely without needing any expensive ground infrastructure. It also uses a buoyancy control system similar to a submarine's, which allows it to remain heavy and stable on the ground and light and efficient in the air. Lastly, it has an all-terrain hovercraft landing system that allows it to land anywhere, unlike a Cargolifter airship, which could land in only a few places in the whole world. These benefits also mean the airship can be built a great deal smaller than leviathans such as the Cargolifter, which not only helps performance and weather tolerance, it's also cheaper and easier to deal with as well.
Jim Lawrence
I agree with Tommo, airships are wonderful but something that big in relation to its weight/mass is going to be at the mercy of sudden storms. Not saying accurate weather forecasting won't help that issue, but even strong winds in the neighborhood of 30+ knots, not unusual even close to the ground, will make for bumpy and very slow progress when going upwind. New York to LA, facing the prevailing wind, would run the risk of averaging 60 knots which would make for a long and potentially uncomfortable trip for passengers. I hope there's an answer for these considerations, because the prospect of a leisurely "cruise" by air is potentially fabulous. If our current ever-faster culture would be able to take such trips without going completely mad with impatience. Price is another thing. If business people don't sign on, because it's too inefficient, you've lost a significant share of your potential market, which will mean fewer flights and higher prices per ticket. As an ocean liner experience, probably a natural...if they can make it pay off without catering only to the idle rich .
yinfu99
I am not sure about running out of helium, as we can create it. I like the idea, and am happy that airships are potentially re-emerging. The old Hindenburg accident really put a scare into people. This technology has huge potential. I also wonder that they these ships couldnt utilize the newer lightwieght solar/photovoltaic technologies to generate more power or electric engines instead of diesel powered.
David Leithauser
Not quite right about the helium, as I understand it. Helium can be mined from the ground or extracted from the air. However, it costs about 10,000 times as much to extract from the air as to mine it from the ground. This could probably be improved considerably if you extracted it at high altitudes where it is found in much higher concentrations. Maybe a hydrogen filled balloon could lift a device to the region where helium is more abundant, and a device could extract it. However, it would always be costly. I am in favor of regulations on using helium in frivolous uses like the balloons you see in supermarkets. On the main subject of the article, it sure would be nice to replace our current gas guzzler aircraft with something more ecofriendly.