Lockheed Martin Develops Airplane/Airship Hybrid

Bob Boyd has a hybrid aircraft that doesn't need any infrastructure to deliver a 500 ton payload.

Bob Boyd theorizes that the world runs from commerce, and commerce runs from movement. His baseline idea is that you can get anything from wherever you are to any other point in the world. His moonshot future state is to make the delivery faster, easier and cheaper.

In his Solve for X talk, The Road Not Needed, Boyd explains his ideas to make transport better and faster outside of traditional infrastructure. In the developed world we take paved roads for granted more than almost any other modern invention.

More than two thirds of the world’s land area and more than a half of the world’s population has no access to paved roads. This is the problem statement that Boyd is trying to improve. Without access to roads it’s very difficult to participate in the global economy.

images courtesy of Solve for X video

Helicopters, Bob tells us, are the only mode of transportation that can efficiently move goods without infrastructure. But travel distance is limited to around two hundred miles per trip, and the cost is prohibitive.

Aviation is the place to find the solution, and Boyd first talks about the three classes of lift. Aerodynamic lift is easy to achieve with airplanes but require runways. Direct lift is powerful and easy to control but very expensive to achieve and operate. Buoyant lift can’t move very fast and the lift cannot be turned off.

Boyd works for with Lockheed Martin Aeronautic’s skunk works division and shows his hybrid aircraft that exhibits the best qualities of each of the three lifts: the P-791. Development has been underway for almost twenty years, and the solution looks like a cross between a blimp and Baymax from Big Hero 6.

Lift is generated from the hull, and propulsion comes from thrust generation. Landing comes from an air cushion landing system. The hovercraft characteristics allow you to take off and land from any surface, including sand, snow or open water.

When stopping to park the hoverpads stick to the ground like gripping feet. Multiple tons of cargo can be carried by these hybrid craft to any place without regard for infrastructure. This technology is ready to go and Boyd maps out his plan for ‘growing the world’.

The first industries affected by this new delivery system will be resource developers. Oil and gas, mining operations, and power generators will be the first to latch onto this new technology. Moving to bigger scales will allow cargo networks to be built.

On the biggest scale an aircraft will be able to carry five hundred tons. Long term Boyd hopes to be able to create seaports in the middle of a continent. Building the cargo networks and the scale of this transport method will be an incredible challenge but Boyd seems ready and capable.

images courtesy of Solve for X video