If you live in California, don't be surprised if sometime later this year you spy a shimmering silver object floating through the sky. No need to hide or call 911, though; it's not a UFO. What you're looking at—possibly with your mouth hanging open—is a cargo airship.
Tustin, Calif.-based Aeros is constructing the craft, which CEO Igor Pasternak describes as a "rigid variable buoyancy air vehicle." The airship, which will measure about 600 feet long and 100 feet wide and can carry up to 250 tons of cargo, relies on compressed helium in super-strong, flexible "envelopes" to govern its buoyancy. It is expected to achieve a cruising speed of 120 miles per hour.
Because it takes off and lands vertically, the airship requires no roads or airports and would be ideal for use in remote locations, Pasternak believes. The U.S. Department of Defense has provided some development funding, and the Danish shipping giant A.P. MÃ¶ller-Maersk has expressed interest in the concept.
To read more about Aeros' design and to see video of the airship's construction and planned deployment, go to aeroscraft.com.