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Dec. 8th, 2009 @ 09:11 pm On the research of the Antarctic.
airshipScientific researches in Antarctica linked to enormous difficulties not only because of the harsh climatic conditions on the mainland of the continent, but also because of the high cost of preparations for the expeditions. In turn, the high expedition’s costs depend on the inaccessibility of the Antarctic for the marine vessels and aircrafts. As a rule, only icebreakers can go to the Antarctic latitudes. The air traffic is even more difficult because of the extreme hardship building of landing strips on the ice-covered continent.

In this small article we would like to suggest some non-trivial approaches to solve traffic problems in Antarctica.

Instead of airplanes we suggest to use in the Antarctic the flying apparatuses which lighter than air - the airships (dirigibles). As is known, the active usage of airships for passenger and freight traffic was halted after a series of high-profile accidents (American "Akron" in 1933, German "Hindenburg" in 1937 etc.). However, these accidents were related mainly to the fact that the highly explosive hydrogen had been used as the filling gas in airships at that time. The modern airships are using inert helium, the cost of the receipt of which from natural gas is relatively low. Even in major disasters airships showed high level of survival people. According to the findings of experts, modern airships can have a higher degree of reliability and security than the airplanes and helicopters.

Like any vehicle, the airship has its own advantages and disadvantages. In the context of Antarctica, it needs to highlight such benefits of airships as heavy lift capability and range of non-stop flights, the cheapness of traffic, especially the large and massive loads, the high duration of stay in the air (it can be measured in weeks). But the main advantage of Antarctic usage of airships is that this apparatus is not required a runway. Moreover, it may not land, but simply “hover” above the ground. Disadvantages of airships are relatively low speed compared with aircraft and helicopters (usually up to 160 km / h) and low mobility. But, in our opinion, in the context of their use for the delivery of goods and people to Antarctica, these disadvantages are unimportant and fully compensated by the above-mentioned advantages.

MD-900 produced by "RosAeroSystems" (Russia) can serve as an example of modern small semi-rigid dirigible airship. MD-900 has the following technical characteristics:

Range at cruising speed - 3000 km
Duration of flight at cruising speed - 50 h
Cruising speed - 100 km / h
Maximum speed - 130 km / h
Payload mass - 3170 kg
Crew - 3 people

This airship can carry several interchangeable modules, such as cargo module at 2 tons of cargo and travel module, designed for 12 tourists.

Of course, if you plan to use airships to transport cargo from remote from Antarctic countries such as Russia or the United States, it is advisable to use larger airships for non-stop flights.

As for the sea route to Antarctica, it is advisable to use such relatively new types of vehicles as shield-planes and wing-in-ground-effect planes (WIG). The distinguishing characteristic of these flying apparatuses is usage so-called ground effect. Ground effect - it is the same air-cushion but it is formed by air injection by the use of dynamically oncoming air flow, not by means of special devices.

Wing-in-ground-effect plane (WIG) can fly at a relatively small (up to several meters) altitude from the surface of water, land, snow or ice. For equal mass and velocity, the wing area of the WIG plane is much smaller than that of the airplane. As for the shield-plane, it has the opportunity to break away from the ground’s "screen" and fly at high altitudes similar to the airplane. Thus the shield-plane's altitude is from several meters to several thousand meters.

The major advantage of shield-planes and WIG planes in the Antarctic is that for the take-off and landing they need only area of water or even smooth plot of land. They have no need for the specially prepared runways.

The shield-plane C-90 (projectible in Russia) can operate in three main modes:
- Local airlines aircraft with the landing gear on an air cushion;
- WIG plane that is flying on a relatively small (up to several meters) altitude from the surface of water, land, snow or ice;
- Hovercraft / self-propelled barge.

C-90 has the following characteristics (three modes):

Maximum payload weight - 2500/3100/4500 kg;
Cruising speed - 400/400/80 km / h;
Range of heights of flight - from 0.5 meters to 4000 meters.
Range - more than 3000 kilometers.

We believe that the usage of these vehicles will greatly facilitate the tasks facing the Antarctic researchers.

Dmitry Kremnev.
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