Enter the SkyTug
Lockheed Martin was one of the top competitors when the US Army went shopping for a new surveillance aircraft. In 2006, the Army passed on Lockheed’s next-generation P-791 hybrid airship in favour of the Airlander, a similar aircraft built by Britain’s Hybrid Air Vehicles and American defence contractor Northrop Grumman. Now the P-791 has been revived as the SkyTug, a hybrid airship poised to serve oil and gas rigs drilling in remote locations. The SkyTug works almost exactly like the Airlander, achieving lift through a combination of helium and fully rotating turbine engines. A Canadian firm recently ordered a SkyTug with a 20-ton cargo capacity, but Lockheed says the design is scalable to handle five times that weight. The SkyTug’s air cushion landing system features inflatable landing surfaces that enable the airship to land on almost any terrain, much like its competitor the Airlander. Lockheed is billing the SkyTug as the perfect long-range transport for heavy machinery and equipment. Instead of building expensive roads or railways to Arctic drilling sites, we can now ship heavy equipment via airship. To this end, hybrid airships like the SkyTug can operate in temperatures as low as -56 degrees Celsius (-68 degrees Fahrenheit).