Nov 9, 2004

The Future of Air Freight

By Biz Stone

Busses are designed to haul passengers. Semi trucks are designed to haul cargo. Why then, do we haul air-freight using aircraft originally designed for passengers? It's time to re-design.

Air Freight Now

There are currently two solutions for shipping products overseas: cargo planes and cargo ships. Shipping by plane is fast but very expensive. Shipping by boat is cheap but slow. There is no in-between (yet).

Most current "freight" aircraft were originally designed to transport people. Passenger aircraft requires more expensive features such as high speed, long runways, high altitude, pressurized environment, windows, exits, and docking capabilities. This all adds to cost.

Parcel is light. So even when a commercial airplane is packed full with parcel, it has not reached it's weight potential. It's important for freight companies to get the maximum out of every flight. They can't do this because current planes are not designed for parcel transport--all the major airframe manufacturers are focused on passenger transport.

The New Air Freight

Make room for the hybrids. Lighter-than-air crafts (LATs) are giant airships filled with helium gas. The helium (an inert gas) creates enough static lift to displace the weight of the cargo leaving only the weight of the craft to the dynamic lift--the wings.

With payloads measured in the thousands of tons, conservative cruising speeds of 150mph at 10,000 feet, and engineering that meets the needs of air freight--not tourists--these new monsters of the sky will glide smoothly and quietly in to take over the industry.

These hybrid static/dynamic lift behemoths will be the coveted third solution: cheaper than a jet and faster than a boat.

Seamless Integration

These rethought sky-trucks will be designed for immediate integration with current cargo shipping infrastructures. Built with existing aircraft tools and technology and with the ability to take off from a standard, medium sized runway and haul the same intermodel containers currently used with trucks, trains, and ships, the new hybrids will fit right in. They'll land in a conventional airport, detach their entire cargo bay for a fast delivery, slide onto another, pre-loaded bay and take off again.

Life After Freight?

Once these hybrids become the accepted third form of cargo shipping, they may be developed for other uses. Commercial travel via hybrid will be cheaper than airplanes and faster than land travel--as well as safer and quieter. Individual hybrids may be developed for special uses, possibly setting off a personal transportation revolution.

So if you see me flying over your house in my personal static/dynamic lift hybrid on my way to my next Genius Convention, don't be alarmed. It's only the future.