The revival of the airship: Cargo transport today, sky resort tomorrow?

Before the infamous Hindenburg disaster put an end to the airship era in 1937, lighter-than-air zeppelins were slated to become the future of transportation.

That vision was put to rest for the better part of a century, but today several companies are intent on reviving airships to carry incredibly heavy cargo payloads with increasing levels of success.

Airships offer advantages over other forms of cargo transport. Their value lies in their weight capacity, paired with the ability to land almost anywhere without the need of an airstrip or ground crew. This feature reduces costs and increases efficiency, allowing for quicker loading and unloading.

Airships can travel long and treacherous distances, landing in near-unreachable areas to deliver goods and supplies.

An American company called Aeros is one of the forerunners in the modern airship movement. It launched a high-tech cargo airship called the Aeroscraft last year.

Aeros’s prototype is able to carry payloads of up to 60 tonnes. The company is now developing a ship that will more than double this weight.

The airship was designed through a partnership with DARPA and NASA. It can achieve a vertical takeoff and landing with no ground support, operating through a helium tank.

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With these high-tech capabilities, airships have the potential to revolutionise transport in a number of fields.

Aeros foresees using the Aeroscraft to deliver heavy cargo to hard-to-reach locations, transporting disaster relief supplies and aiding military transportation.

UK-based Hybrid Air Vehicles is another leader in airship technology. The company is currently in the process of designing two different airships.

One of the prototypes is focused on endurance. It is able to stay airborne for 5 days at a time, conducting surveys and research, providing communications outlets and acting as a surveillance platform.

The second is a heavy-lifting airship similar to the Aeroscraft that can land on nearly any surface, making it optimal for disaster relief and the gas, oil and mining industries.

Airships set themselves apart from typical cargo planes because of the ability to land almost anywhere without the need of an airstrip or ground crew. This feature reduces costs and increases efficiency, allowing for quicker loading and unloading.

In addition, airships present a more environmentally friendly alternative to plane transport because they need less fuel to operate and fly at a lower altitude, producing fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

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As hybrid airship technology continues to develop, so will the uses for it. These companies already foresee using their ships to globalise world markets by quickly transporting products like fresh fruits and vegetables to revolutionise daily cuisine.

They also haven’t forgotten the airship-era dream of cruising the sky for pleasure, maintaining that one day airships will allow people to enjoy the amenities of a resort or a cruise in the clouds.

Of course, the airship tragedies of the past cannot be forgotten, but these companies are incorporating advanced safety features into their prototypes to ensure their reliability. One day soon, we will be able to fully realize the potential of the airship technology that was all but abandoned last century.


Featured image courtesy of Hybrid Air Vehicles, body images courtesy of Aeros.


Steve “Woz” Wozniak to advise hologram emoji company that he calls “groundbreaking”

Apple’s co-founder Steve “Woz” Wozniak has found himself a new gig; Woz has joined the hologram emoji company, Mojiit, as an adviser.

In his role as advisor to Mojiit, the legendary entrepreneur and engineer will help assemble a world-class engineering team in addition to bringing investors and partnerships to the newly launched startup. Wozniak will also serve as mentor to Mojiit founder, Jeremy Greene.

“I’m thrilled to join Mojiit as an advisor,” said Wozniak. “Jeremy is a natural leader, the company is groundbreaking, it’s going to change the ecommerce space, and it’s a lot of fun.”

Created in 2017, Mojiit is the latest startup technology venture from Greene. The company’s tech essentially enables users to project and share 3D hologram emojis via smartphones.

The platform turns users into emojis by scanning their face, which can then be sent to loved ones and friends. Once a Mojiit message is received, it will map the area where it is received and place the Mojiit hologram there in real time, so it works in a similar way to Pokemon Go.

“Steve is one of the best and brilliant engineers in the entire world. But outside of that, he’s a wonderful man,” said Greene. “There isn’t anyone I’d want to be in business with more than this guy. He’s a legend. Who better to learn from than the guy who created the computer?”

Image courtesy of Nichollas Harrison. Featured image courtesy of Mojiit

In addition to consumer use, businesses of all kinds can tap into hologram emojis with Mojiit’s technology.

Mojiit investors already  include NFL alum Ed Reed, and the company was able to raise a total of $1 million in its seed round of funding.

Alongside the appointment of Woz, Entourage and Ballers producer Rob Weiss recently joined the company as a creative director.

“It’s exciting to expand beyond television and film to digital platforms,” said Weiss. “Hologram technology brings incredible opportunity to entertainment and media. I’m thrilled to be leading creative at Mojiit.”

Nanoengineers send antibiotic-delivering micromotors into the body to treat cancer-causing infection

Nanoengineers have demonstrated for the first time how “micromotors” that measure half the width of a human hair can be used to transport antibiotics through the body.

Nanoengineers at the University of California San Diego tested the micromotors in mice with Helicobacter pylori infections, which can also be found in about two-thirds of the world’s population and while many people will never notice any signs of its presence it can cause peptic ulcers and stomach cancer.

The mice received the micromotors – packed with a clinical dose of the antibiotic clarithromycin – orally once a day for five consecutive days.

Afterwards, nanoengineers evaluated the bacterial count in each mouse stomach and found that treatment with the micromotors was slightly more effective than when the same dose of antibiotic was given in combination with proton pump inhibitors, which also suppress gastric acid production.

Micromotors administered to the mice swam rapidly throughout the stomach while neutralising gastric acid, which can be destructive to orally administered drugs such as antibiotics and protein-based pharmaceuticals.

Because gastric acid is so destructive to traditional antibiotics drugs used to treat bacterial infections, ulcers and other diseases in the stomach are normally taken with additional substances, called proton pump inhibitors.

But when taken over longer periods or in high doses, proton pump inhibitors can cause adverse side effects including headaches, diarrhea and fatigue. In more serious cases, they can cause anxiety or depression.

The micromotors, however, have a built-in mechanism that neutralises gastric acid and effectively deliver their drug payloads in the stomach without requiring the use of proton pump inhibitors.

“It’s a one-step treatment with these micromotors, combining acid neutralisation with therapeutic action,” said Berta Esteban-Fernández de Ávila, a postdoctoral scholar in Wang’s research group at UC San Diego and a co-first author of the paper.

The nanoengineers say that while the present results are promising, this work is still at an early stage.

To test their work, the team is planning future studies to into the therapeutic performance of the micromotors in animals and humans, and will compare it with other standard therapies used to combat stomach diseases.

UC San Diego nanoengineers also plan to test different drug combinations with the micromotors to treat multiple diseases in the stomach or in different sections of the gastrointestinal tract.

Overall, the researchers say that this work opens the door to the use of synthetic motors as active delivery platforms in the treatment of diseases.

Image and video courtesy of the Laboratory for Nanobioelectronics at UC San Diego.