Dr. Carl-Heinrich Freiherr von Gablenz: Lighter-than-air technology bridges logistical gaps

In the logistics sector, limitations are quickly experienced, if traditional transport and lifting technologies are no longer applicable. This calls for extraordinary solutions. Why not use the sky? Lighter-than-air technology opens up a whole range of entirely new opportunities!

Are there still gaps in the area of transport today? Is it not possible for ships, trains, heavy goods vehicles or aircrafts to transport everything anywhere? Of course, there are special transports and a few corners that are difficult to reach, but the real challenge is not the transport in itself. It is its relia­­bility, price, tracking and the uninterrupted flow in the IT-supported and controlled logistics chain.

This may largely be true from the point of view of logisticians from Germany, Western Europe, the United States and other highly developed industrial regions. While here one tends to groan about traffic congestions, a large part of the world can only dream of such transport routes – and problems. In China, India, Africa, Central and South America, the de­­velopment of a transport infrastructure is one of the major challenges. In the far north of Canada, Alaska, Siberia and the vast expanse of the Amazon the situation is entirely different again. Here, time is not the driving factor. It is more a question of “how to get things transported at all?”! There are more gaps as one would expect – and we want to bridge them.

Ships need water beneath their keel and land vehicles require solid ground beneath their wheels. And there is always only one of the two: either land or water. This means that goods have to be transhipped. This involves time, money and the risk of damage. Ports, rail tracks and roads must be con­­structed and maintained – and ice roads end up melting every spring! What is the solution?

Use the sky! The sky is an endless ‘ocean’ of air stretching across land and water! ‘Air roads’ do not have to be con­­struct­­ed. The sky is ready for use and we want to take ad­­vantage of this! A floating Air-Hook uses the sky for lifting or transportation of items from point A to B, which are 1,00 or 1000 meters or even 10, 100 or 1,000 kilometres apart, over the gaps between ships and land or across rivers. Sim­­ply, where current transportation is facing its limits, the floating CargoLifter goes on. CargoLifter bridges gaps in modern transportation!

For floating in the air, CargoLifter uses the Archimedes prin­­ciple of displacement. The lightweight lifting gas contained within the balloon or the airship displaces the heavier air, which results in lifting forces. The larger the volume, the larger is its uplift and its stability. Airships are quite liter­­ally ships in the air – this is best to comprehend visualising a sub­­ma­­rine hovering in water, just as the CargoLifter does in the sky.

Why use lighter than air? Heavier-than-air technology, in other words planes, can only generate lifting forces, if their wings are propelled through the air. If there is no propul­­sion, there is no uplift! In case of a balloon or airship, uplift solely occurs due to the lifting gas. This results in lower energy consumption. Runways are not required! Heli­­copters are also able of taking-off vertically, but lifting more than three tonnes can be a costly operation. The largest heli­­copter is capable of lifting a maximum of up to 20 tonnes, for which it consumes 3,000 litres of fuel per hour! A bal­­loon crane can float in the air and lift loads for days, weeks and months on end! CargoLifter systems are therefore not only efficient but also environmentally friendly – consum­­ing small amount of energy while floating in the air, operating from above ground!

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Why aren’t airships already in use for the transport of cargo and balloons as floating cranes? Balloons are known for research and leisure time activities or serve as aerostats for military purposes. In tourism industry, Zeppelins were and still are the dream of flying experience and serve as billboards. CargoLifter is quite different as it is based on the analysis of global logistics on the one hand and trans­­portation technologies on the other. No other organisation in the world has invested so much effort in market and tech­­nology – CargoLifter was and still is the synonym for lift­­ing and transportation of freight by means of balloons and airships – nomen est omen! Consequently, CargoLifter also stands for a completely new logistics technology from Ger­­many. We are bridging the gaps in areas for which there were previously no solutions, and we are opening up markets which are currently inaccessible.

Today, CargoLifter offers solutions from a stationary air­­hook with 250 kilogrammes lifting capacity to a balloon crane system with 20 tonnes – from a small balloon used for maintenance in construction industry to airhooks lifting up to 20 tonnes. There are virtually no limitations in terms of cantilevering as loads are always kept underneath the lifting balloon: higher than 100 m, further than 200 m, on the construction site, from ship to shore or as a transporter for extremely large components. A balloon from this series of technology has already set a world record by lifting and transporting a load of 55 tonnes.

Whether large or small, whether a balloon or an airship – the principle remains the same. The task defines the technology! This form of technology resolves the challenges faced by the logistics sector not by using a maximum amount of technology, but rather by a minimum. The balloon is ideal for stationary operations and short routes – accurately po­­si­­tioned and led from the ground via ropes and winches. The powered balloon becomes an airship, which is aero­­dynamically optimised with increasing distance.

For each and every task, there is a suitable solution: up to 20 tonnes can be transported by the balloon, 20 to 40 tonnes by the AirTruck the heavy goods vehicle of the sky, and 80 tonnes or more by the large CargoLifter. We start off small and stationary, growing in lifting power as well as range. A consistent concept is implemented where the development steps of each stage build upon smaller steps previously taken. There is more to the CargoLifter systems than just balloons or “Zeppelins”: they are devices of a new kind – floating devices, levitating crafts or in short “LeviCrafts”! An innovative solution, made in Germany!

CargoLifter not only stands for efficient solutions for economy; its technology also aids in case disaster occur! Our AirKules technology helps to carefully remove rubble after earthquakes for rescuing buried victims, to fly in physicians with medication or tents into areas where infrastructure has been cut off, to save people from roofs, islands or trees in case of flooding. The AirKules is ideal to raise dykes or to transport emergency aid supplies from ship to shore, especially if there are no port facilities avail­­able. AirKules is multifunctional, easy to transport and can be quickly set up on site. At the same time, it is inexpen­­sive to acquire and, above all, maintain. AirKules is a rescue system – predestined for all countries that come up against natural catastrophes.

Dr. Carl-Heinrich Freiherr von Gablenz was born in the Allgäu in 1952. After an agricultural education, he studied law in Frankfurt as well as Augsburg and obtained a doctorate in Munich. After working in various fields, which amongst others included engineering and finance, he became a visiting professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the department of logistics where he developed the underlying concept of CargoLifter.