The Boeing Company and SkyHook International Inc. have announced a teaming agreement to develop a blimp designed to carry up to a 40-ton load 200 miles without refueling.
Called the Skyhook JHL-40 (Jess Heavy Lifter), the new commercial heavy-lift rotorcraft is designed to address the limitations and expense of transporting equipment and materials in remote regions, as long as they re within 200 miles.
Boeing said it has received the first increment of a multiyear contract from SkyHook to develop the new aircraft.
Companies have suggested this new technology will enable them to modify their current operational strategy and begin working much sooner on projects that were thought to be 15 to 20 years away, said Peter Jess, chief operating officer of Calgary s SkyHook International (and the namesake for the Jess Heavy Lifter).
SkyHook secured the patent for this neutrally buoyant aircraft and approached Boeing with the opportunity to develop and build the system, said Pat Donnelly, director of Advanced Rotorcraft Systems for Boeing. We conducted a feasibility study and decided this opportunity is a perfect fit for Advanced Systems technical capabilities.
The neutrally buoyant feature allows SkyHook to safely carry payloads unmatched by any rotorcraft in existence today, he said. The helium-filled envelope is sized to support the weight of the vehicle and fuel without payload.
With the empty weight of the aircraft supported by the envelope, the lift generated by four rotors is dedicated solely to lifting the payload, leaving the aircraft neutrally buoyant.
The aircraft will be capable of lifting a 40-ton sling load and transporting it in harsh environments such as the Canadian Arctic and Alaska. Currently, conventional land and water transportation methods in these undeveloped regions are inadequate, unreliable and costly.
With its lifting capacity and range, the SkyHook changes that for a variety of industries around the world.
There is a definite need for this technology. The list of customers waiting for SkyHook s services is extensive, and they enthusiastically support the development of the JHL-40, said Jess. This Boeing-SkyHook technology represents an environmentally acceptable solution for these companies heavy-lift short-haul challenges, and it s the only way many projects will be able to progress economically.
The JHL-40 is environmentally acceptable because it mitigates the impact of building new roadways in remote areas, and Skyhook is expected to reduce the carbon footprint of the industrial projects it supports.
Boeing is designing and will fabricate two production prototypes of the JHL-40 at its Rotorcraft Systems facility in Ridley Park, Pa. Skyhook will own, maintain, operate and service all JHL-40 aircraft for customers worldwide.
The new aircraft will enter commercial service as soon as it is certified by Transport Canada and the U.S. FAA.
No specifications such as size, weight, engines, crew or speed were released.