Economic Optimization of Cargo Airships

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Historical strengths and weaknesses of airships were investigated to determine a mission suited for airships. The transatlantic cargo mission was selected to take advantage of the high payload and endurance qualities of airships while minimizing the frequency of ground handling. An optimization was performed to minimize the cost per ton mile of the airship with maximum velocity as the variable. Other design parameters were held constant and based on historical airship studies. The cost per ton mile and von Karman efficiency were used to compare the optimized airship designs with other modes of cargo transportation. An airship with a volume of 200,000 m3, which was the volume of the Hindenburg, would achieve a cost per ton mile of $1.03. This value equates to about 85 % the cost of an airplane, and five times the cost of a truck. A graph of von Karman efficiency showed that the airships proposed by this study could occupy a niche market between airplanes and trucks in terms of both efficiency and velocity.


Copyright statement: © Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt e.V. 2016. (DLR is the German Aerospace Center)

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CEAS Aeronautical Journal