Personal Blimp
Project Summary











Since 2002 Skyacht Aircraft, Inc. has been developing a new type of aircraft called the Personal Blimp. The goal of this work has been to create an aircraft capable of quiet, steerable, sustained, and affordable flight. When the first Personal Blimp, named the Airship Alberto, made its first flight on October 27, 2006, it became the first and only aircraft to meet this seemingly straightforward goal.

The Personal Blimp uses hot air (rather than Helium) for lift and virtually silent electric motors for propulsion. To put it another way: the Personal Blimp is a hot air balloon that can be maneuvered about in nearly perfect quiet. Passengers in a Personal Blimp have a serene experience of flight unavailable in any other type of aircraft. (Note: Initial flight tests are using a conventional gas-powered motor. Electric motors will be added once these initial tests are complete. Similarly, the initial flight tests are being made with conventional -- i.e. loud -- hot air balloon burners. Quiet burners will be added later.)

The Personal Blimp can fly in ways that no other aircraft can match. For instance, no other aircraft can accomplish the seemingly straightforward task of picking off the top-most leaf from a particular tree (Helicopter downblast tosses the leaves wildly; Helium airships can't hover; Previously built hot air airship and hot air balloons are essentially impossible to steer precisely at hovering airspeeds.) In contrast, the Personal Blimp flies "low, slow, and smooth." This enables one to accomplish tasks as simple as the above-mentioned tree-top leaf-picking or as complex as carrying airborne gravimetric measurement equipment (used in diamond prospecting) with far greater sensitivity and spatial resolution. Other areas of application for the Personal Blimp's unique abilities include forest canopy research, wetlands survey/management, eco-tourism, and aerial photography and film-making.

When not in use, the Personal Blimp can be deflated and folded for storage (much like a hot air balloon.) The combination of ready buoyancy control and rapid deflation eliminates not only costly hangars but also the large ground crews typically required for helium airships.

While some hot air airships exist today, these craft are extremely limited in their abilities. These limits arise because the envelopes (a.k.a. "gas bags") of these ships consist only of fabric with no rigid structural members (i.e. They are "non-rigids".) These designs rely solely upon internal air pressurization (the way a toy balloon does) to retain their shape. This lack of structural rigidity leads to both low airspeed and limited steering.

In contrast to completely non-rigid envelope designs, the Personal Blimp has a rigid, but folding, skeleton (much like an umbrella) to allow the envelope to retain its shape without requiring internal air pressurization. We received a patent (USPTO #6,793,180) for this unique structural design in September of 2004. The Personal Blimp's rigid but foldable structure also provides hardpoints at strategic locations (e.g. on the tail) for mounting systems such as the engine and propeller. With the engine/propeller mounted on the tail, the Personal Blimp can use vectored thrust for steering. This provides far greater maneuverability, particularly for hovering, than any previous hot air airship.

Since its first flight in 2006, the Alberto has completed more than 50 hours of flight testing. Our work now focuses on both refining its systems and further expanding its capabilities. We have also started construction of our second airship to be named Hugo.

Copyright 2002-2010 Skyacht Aircraft, Inc.