In a large warehouse in Southern California, a futuristic-looking metallic airship that looks more like an Area 51 UFO is set to revolutionize the cargo transport industry.
"First float" maneuvers, performed in a controlled in-hanger exercise earlier this month, were the first lift-off of the Aeroscraft prototype model ML866, the world's only Rigid Variable Buoyancy Air Vehicle.
The lighter-than-air vertical takeoff air transport vehicle is designed for oversized freight transportation, and someday possibly luxury travel. With a planned 20-ton lifting capacity, several U.S. agencies including DARPA, NASA, and the U.S. Department of Defense are betting that the Aeroscraft will modernize the world's mega-projects, facilitating movement of heavy equipment and supplies in urban, remote, and ecologically sensitive locations.
Made of aluminum and carbon fiber and filled with pressurized helium, the 230-foot Aeroscraft is covered in a reflective Mylar skin which makes it appear as though it's just arrived from a Hollywood back lot of the latest J.J. Abrams film.