Lighter-than-air cargo airship prototype built

Lighter-than-air cargo airship prototype built

TUSTIN, California - The Associated Press
Lighter-than-air cargo airship prototype built

The Aeroscraft airship, a high-tech prototype airship, is seen in a World War II-era hangar in Tustin, Calif., Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013. AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

An American aircraft manufacturing company, Worldwide Aeros Corporation, has launched a prototype for a cargo airship that is expected to carry more cargo more efficiently than ever before.

The U.S. space agency NASA and the U.S. Department of Defense have invested $35 million in the prototype.

The cargo airship is a lighter-than-air vehicle but different from a zeppelin, with its rigid structure made out of ultra-light carbon fiber and aluminum underneath its high-tech Mylar skin.

The airship, which will take off vertically like a helicopter, could be used for military purposes on the battlefield and to save lives during natural disasters, according to company's engineers.

Interior balloons hold the helium that gives the vehicle lift and unlike hydrogen helium is not flammable, said Aeros mechanical engineer Tim Kenny.

The prototype will be used in a disaster zone or anywhere else following several more rounds of flight tests.

Next, Aeros wants to build a 137-meter vehicle that can carry 66 tons of payload.