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Boeing and Skyhook to Partner on Heavy-Lift Neutrally-Buoyant Rotorcraft

The JHL-40.

The Boeing Company and SkyHook International Inc. are teaming to develop the JHL-40 (Jess Heavy Lifter), a new commercial heavy-lift neutrally-buoyant rotorcraft designed to address the limitations and expense of transporting equipment and materials in remote regions. Boeing has received the first increment of a multiyear contract from SkyHook to develop the new aircraft.

A 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 JHL-40’s capacity is approximately twice that of the current largest vertical lift (the MI-26 helicopter).

The SkyHook JHL-40 aircraft will be capable of lifting a 40-ton (80,000 lbs, 36,250 kg) sling load and transporting it up to 200 miles at a speed of 70 knots without refueling 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 JHL-40 aircraft changes that for a variety of industries around the world.

Ducted propellers deliver the 70 kt speed, and enable maneuvering, positioning, and station-keeping ability.

SkyHook secured the patent for this neutrally buoyant aircraft and approached Boeing with the opportunity to develop and build the system. We conducted a feasibility study and decided this opportunity is a perfect fit for Advanced Systems’ technical capabilities.

—Pat Donnelly, director of Advanced Rotorcraft Systems for Boeing

The JHL-40 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.

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. 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.

—Pete Jess, SkyHook president and COO

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 US Federal Aviation Administration.



Savannah River Site, Hanford Site, Idaho National Energy Laboratory & Nellis Range (west of Area 51; where all the nukes were tested in the 50's and 60's) - we could build 10 new next generation, massive nuclear power plants at each of these sites (that already have nuclear energy issues). Clean energy security for decades.

Mike McCarthy

Why not increase lifting capability and/or range by inserting an inner envelope containing hydrogen (most of the volume) surrounded by an outer envelope (shell) of helium?

Most of the Hindenburg deaths were caused by panic, not from the inherent safety of the vehicle. Most of those who died had panicked and jumped to their deaths. Those who kept their heads and rode the thing to the ground escaped by running away. Check out a video clip to see for yourself (see the people running away right to the end of the clip). Most of those onboard survived. Part of the reason having to do with the way H2 flame and heat rise rapidly; passengers and crew being at the bottom of the craft. (This aspect of H2 has been used to argue for the relative safety of H2 fires vs. gasoline fires in ground vehicles, either ICE or fuel-cell powered - - the heat of a gas fire stays at ground level spreading in all directions.)

It is reported that the skin of the Hindenburg was highly flammable. Combine that with leaks venting directly into surrounding air and all you need is a spark. Surely by now we can design a less flammable skin... Combine that with a helium-filled outer shell and you get a pretty safe double-hulled airship. (Sensors would monitor for the inevitable H2 leaking into the He-filled shell; periodic or continuous processing would be done to maintain adequate He purity in the outer shell for safety reasons.)

The safety of the small crew can be further ensured by providing a parachute-equipped escape pod. The uses your site depicts for the JHL-40 heavy transport ship are mainly in non-settled areas and so expose populations on the ground to minimal if any risk.

They propose 200-mile trips without refueling - - which means a 100-mile cargo haul into or out of remote sites and a 100-mile "empty" trip. Having H2 on board lengthens the non-stop distance, as it can fuel part or all of the empty-load portion of the trip (flown faster and at higher altitude to deal with buoyancy issues); or allows for extra fuel to be carried.

If higher altitude during the "empty" legs of trips doesn't resolve all ballast issues, water or other environmentally friendly weight could be carried.


There are enough places with lots of wind, which are easily accessible.

The places that don't have roads usually also don't have people with electricity demand.
Of course, one can transport electricity over large distances, but as long as there are enough places with sufficient wind closer to people, there's no reason to build wind turbines in remote places:
South Dakota has the potential to generate enough wind energy to power half of the nation's electrical needs.

Btw, Enercon (largest windturbine provider in Germany) doesn't even build offshore wind turbines. They can't even keep up with the demand on land.

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