Thursday, February 18, 2010

My favorite fantasy...

... and a big reason I thought I was willing to do whatever it takes to be ultra-rich: the hybrid ultra-large aircraft. Its a blimp shaped like a lifting body, so it can carry heavier-than-air payloads. They say the large designs could carry a thousand tons across twelve thousand nautical miles. For reference: a cubic meter of water weighs about a (metric) ton; so assuming that you didn't fill it with anything much denser than water (on average) the interior usable area of such a beast might be a thousand cubic meters. And the circumference of the earth is twenty-two thousand miles, so its range could get you to the other side of the planet. Max speed is supposedly in the 100mph range, so it could cross the world in five days. That seems like a nice speed: slow enough that you get to appreciate the journey, but fast enough that time isn't a major constraint. I'm going to indulge in a few moments of massaging my fantasy.

Imagine if the surface of the envelope (the blimpy-part) was covered in printed photovoltaic cells. These could generate electricity, which could be used to electrolisize water and use the hydrogen and oxygen for fuel. Viola! Never need to stop to refuel! And operating costs go down to the cost of maintenance! Assuming turbines can burn hydrogen (can they?).

For no particular reason other than aesthetics, it would be cool to have giant, slow-moving, sail-like propeller blades to be used for slow cruising. They could fold back and be streamlined when moving faster. I imagine hydrogen verniers could be used for fine control; but probably wouldn't be suitable for takeoff (except over water).

So what could be done with this big, beautiful black blimp? For starters, I would live in it. Travel the world, see beautiful things, and go beautiful places. The inside would be done up luxuriantly; with as much of it as possible exposed to the windows and the space as open open and airy as it could be. Since the gondola would be in the center, underneath the mass of the envelope, it would be shaded for most of the day. Perhaps a cabin could be put in the envelope itself on either side so that they could be exposed that more of that charming eight-light-minutes-distant atomic fire. Morning on one side, evening on the other.

The main cabin would be all carbon-fiber, aluminum, and teak. Hanging plants by the giant windows could grow a small amount of fresh food; probably enough for two people with a stock of grain. To pay for whatever else we could sell photographs of the beautiful things we see from the sky, bring wealthy guests on tours around wherever they live and cook them dinner, collect stuff from remote and exotic locations and sell it in other exotic locations. There could be a separate cargo-only gondola so that it could be hired out solely for heavy lifting if I wanted to make some money while I wasn't using it.

For getting up to it and down from it (without actually landing), there'd be a winch. It would be suited to picking up and depositing a small vehicle, like a motorcycle. It'd be even cooler, of course, if a little aircraft could be somehow landed on it; but I'm having trouble thinking of a way that could be made to work even in imaginiationland. More realistically: since the thing can land in water, a little boat (or car/boat) would be useful. Also, somewhat randomly, I'd rig up a pully-and-weights system on the inside so two people could simulate flying through the main cabin space. Or better yet: on the outside, so we could fly through open space.

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