Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Can airships revolutionize transportation in world's harshest environments?

By Jenny Soffel, for CNN
December 10, 2013 -- Updated 0246 GMT (1046 HKT)
Artist's impression of an Arctic airship by Aeros.
Artist's impression of an Arctic airship by Aeros.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Aeros and Icelandair Cargo are to team up to develop new air freight service across the Arctic
  • Aeros' new cargo airship, the Aeroscraft, requires no runway and can access remote terrains
  • The two companies want to deliver standard cargo containers via Iceland to regions with little infrastructure

(CNN) -- Commercial development of the Arctic's natural resources has so far been near to impossible, but transportation throughout the inhospitable region may soon be revolutionized.

U.S.-based airship company Aeros and Icelandic airline Icelandair Cargo, say they have signed an agreement with hopes of establishing a partnership to develop new air freight service across the Arctic region.

Together they are hoping to deliver standard cargo containers via Iceland to regions with little infrastructure, such as Siberia, Alaska, Greenland and northern Canada.

"It's a project representing the future of solving the problems of today," Aeros' CEO Igor Pasternak told CNN. "The distribution in the Arctic Circle as it is right now is inefficient and not logical."

Managing Director with Icelandair Cargo, Gunnar Sigurfinnsson, said in a press release that he believes Aeros will help transform Arctic transportation forever.

"We are pleased to begin a partnership with Aeroscraft and jointly explore the expanding market opportunities in Greenland, Iceland, and surrounding Northern territories," Sigurfinnsson stated.

The future of airships

World's fastest-growing dating app
Winning over the millennial traveler

Aeros is developing a new cargo airship, the Aeroscraft -- a hybrid dirigible combining elements of regular "lighter-than-air" (LTA) craft and traditional fixed-wing planes.

As opposed to existing airship designs, this vehicle can control its own buoyancy and is therefore capable of true vertical take-off and landing without requiring external ballast exchange. This eliminates the need for a runway, airfields and ground crew, which helps sidestep infrastructure development costs.

READ: Building a "spaceopolis"

The company, based in California, had test flights with the Aersocraft in September and are now building full-sized prototypes.

The aim is to have the first vehicle flying by 2016, and the initial fleet of 24 vehicles up and running by 2020.

The rigid-hulled dirigible measures 169 meters in length, and has a payload of 66 tonnes (with plans for a 250 tonne version), a cruising speed of up to 120 knots, and a range of 3,100 nautical miles.

One of the Aeroscraft's biggest advantages is that it offers significant fuel savings since it runs on regular diesel, rather than expensive aviation fuel which can be tough to get hold of in more inaccessible regions.

READ: How new airline routes are reshaping the world

The primary focus will be logistical, moving cargo, troops and disaster relief supplies into remote and inhospitable terrain. But the company says that there may also be other uses for the technology in the future, like "floating hotels" to "sky yachts for millionaires."

Global game-changers

Pasternak says he hopes the relationship with Icelandair Cargo will benefit both partners.

The distribution in the Arctic Circle as it is right now is inefficient and not logical.
Igor Pasternak, CEO Aeros

"They are a very innovative airline. Someday they will be our partner; they know the area, and we will be able to do some unique deliveries," the Kazakhstan-born engineer says.

"It can be everything from delivering the oil rigs to Greenland to bringing milk from England to a Canadian Arctic post."

Not only could Icelandair Cargo and Aeroscraft be global game-changers of how air freight services are operated -- the partnership could potentially transform Iceland into an important business and aviation hub.

"You can imagine that if Iceland becomes the base for the Arctic distribution system, you are creating a new industry in Iceland, which means new jobs and business opportunities," said Pasternak.

"It would be a high-tech industry. The Aeroscraft has a green footprint and could provide a normal lifestyle to those living in remote areas. We could be creating a whole new understanding of what the Arctic is."

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
April 24, 2014 -- Updated 0752 GMT (1552 HKT)
Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts is entering the aviation game.
April 11, 2014 -- Updated 0212 GMT (1012 HKT)
Imagine you're a hotel company with a score of brands that seem, well, dated. All the flash amenities of yesteryear seem irrelevant today.
April 8, 2014 -- Updated 0414 GMT (1214 HKT)
The European firm has unveiled how passengers flying on its new A350 XWB might travel.
March 26, 2014 -- Updated 1335 GMT (2135 HKT)
Would you pay to cut in line for the toilets on a flight?
March 5, 2014 -- Updated 0218 GMT (1018 HKT)
Concorde is a thing of the past, but a number of companies are racing to release the first supersonic business jet.
March 3, 2014 -- Updated 0222 GMT (1022 HKT)
Though we're still in the early stages of 2014, it is already proving one of the most expensive years for the travel industry.
March 4, 2014 -- Updated 1715 GMT (0115 HKT)
At $83,200 a night, the Royal Penthouse Suite at Geneva's Hotel President Wilson is the most expensive hotel room in the world.
February 17, 2014 -- Updated 0348 GMT (1148 HKT)
From 'ascending rooms' and mini-bars to pillow menus and iPad-controls, discover the evolution of hotel room amenities.
February 17, 2014 -- Updated 1612 GMT (0012 HKT)
There's a new group of travelers in town -- and it hardly matters which town you're talking about.
February 13, 2014 -- Updated 0457 GMT (1257 HKT)
It's Boeing vs. Airbus as the heavy-weight plane makers face off at the Singapore airshow.
February 10, 2014 -- Updated 0203 GMT (1003 HKT)
How airlines are making in-flight maps more interactive and monetizing them.
ADVERTISEMENT