So the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) just announced the two member list of companies participating in the next stage of its Walrus program, which aims to develop a part blimp, part jumbo jet monstrosity that can quickly (and relatively cheaply) ferry hundreds of tons of gear to the far reaches of the world. In reality show-ese: Lockheed Martin will duke it out with Aeros Aeronautical Systems in a 12-month battle to provide DARPA with a winning walrus design, using a budget of $3 million tax dollars each.
Who will be the victor?
According to Red Herring (they put it so eloquently): “DARPA wants the final product to carry 500 tons of war machine 12,000 nautical miles in less than a week.” RH spoke to Torrance, California-based Aeros, who claims that a 1-foot-wide hole in the fabric of a 140-foot-long airship would take more than an hour bring the thing down, meaning ample time for safe landings after hostile encounters. They also report asking about the potential impact of missles (war zones typically involve things more dangerous than pea shooters) – too bad Aeros wouldn’t cough up any details.
The article makes a valid point about the potential usefulness of such a vehicle in chaotic areas like New Orleans, where large quantities of supplies could be brought to a single area by one gigantic aircraft. To put it in all in perspective, the largest Boeing 747 cargo plane can only carry 400 tons – and it needs a runway.
I know this isn’t the same as forgetting to convert your units, but PLEASE don’t fill it with hydrogen…