Project SkyAura

Everyone knows about Carnival Cruiselines. Their commercial cruiseships generated over $10 billion in revenue in 2009 according to industry reports. What about the revenue generated from commercial airship companies? Has anyone even heard of them? Probably not. Except for a few blimps floating around advertising for companies and the occasional paying 2-15 or so passengers on a zeppelin at very touristy sites, there's almost no commercial usages of them. That's because large airships don't exist yet. The last of their kind seemed to have disappeared shortly after the fireball of the Hindenburg disaster in the early 20th century. The revenue generated from real commercial airships that can hold hundreds of passengers is currently nonexistent. That sort of airship itself is nonexistent.

This is a pity. Airships are far safer than aircraft regardless of what many people may believe. (The Hindenburg disaster did not explode but rather deflated. The people that died in the disaster were not the ones who stayed on the ship but rather the ones that jumped and fell to their death.) They are perfect as cruiseliners due to their ability to levitate for long periods, relatively inexpensive fuel, and lack of engine noise. There's also numerous other reasons but those are some main reasons.

That will change with Project SkyAura. We propose to design a commercially-viable airship able to carry at least 100 passengers for a self-sustaining flight of at least a week. That is our design challenge. Who are we? A team of students with grand ideals and the belief that with sufficient technical knowledge, business prowess, networking connections, and loads of creativity we can get venture capitalists and angel investors interested to fund our proposed business plan.

Our Idea

This airship will not require in-fueling while it's cruising. Ideally, it should be operate for at least a week in the air without any support.

Traditional blimps and zeppelins have an engine right behind the gondola. This is noisy and highly inefficient in terms of control. Our idea? Use 4 engines capable of vectored thrust located at 2 locations on each side of the airship for maximum passenger comfort and for better and finer control. Eliminate the elevator at the back and reduce the usage of the rudder.

Some preliminary sketches:

3D views:

We are just starting out so we have a lot of work ahead of us. We will have to do plenty of buoyancy and control calculations. For instance, we'll have to...

  • Determine how much lift can be generated based on a shape. Need to find this shape and volume.
  • Environmental factors.
  • Find the mass of the airship.
  • Determine what shape minimizes aerodynamic drag.
  • Calculate the optimum locations to place our thrusters.
  • Calculate the amount of thrust we need. Calculate the max angle the thrusters need to veer.
  • Size the gondola appropriately to not offset the center of mass.
  • Calculate performance factors (maximum efficiency cruise speed, maximum cruise speed, optimum altitude of flight, maximum altitude of flight, etc.) based on each design.

Many of the design parameters will require a recursive approach with a range of inputs but they can certainly be found. Aside from these and many other technical issues that will inevitably pop up, we will also have to deal with the business side such as ...

  • How much to charge each passenger? How much will people be willing to pay? How much interest is there in the first place?
  • How will we promote this idea to the average layman?
  • Legal issues to go out of the country?
  • Why did previous airship companies fail? This is very important! We do not want to join the rank of our predecessors.

We will update our progress here from time to time so come back once in a while and spread the word or if you are more ambitious join the team!

Current and Past Ventures

Some companies with similar goals as us:

How You Can Help

Simple, join the team!

Send an email to me with your technical/business/networking skills and we can get started. We need people from all sorts of backgrounds. Creativity is also highly valued.

If you have any of the following skills and are interested in the project, shoot me an email!

  • Airship design skills. Have you ever built or designed an airship? If so, you are 2 steps ahead already.
  • Aircraft design skills. Also quite valuable. Can be upgraded (or if you like, changed) to airship design skills.
  • System engineering skills. Very useful for overarching designs with multiple parameters to optimize and to conduct tradeoff. Parametrization matrices, AHPs, Pareto plots, etc. You name it.
  • Technical programming skills such as Mathematica, MATLAB, C, C++, Java, FORTRAN, etc. How proficient are you and what have you worked on?
  • Hands on skills. Eventually we will build a small mock-up so your handyman skills will come in handy.
  • Networking skills. Do you know people in the industry or have you worked on this before and know people? Or are you just very social and are quite good at presenting and marketing new ideas?
  • Business management skills. Self-explanatory.
  • Marketing skills. Self-explanatory.
  • Creativity.