A giant airship being built inside a hangar in Orange County looks like a blimp, but its designers say it's a whole lot more, and that it just might be the future of air travel. The futuristic flying machine may one day carry troops and equipment, and could also become a flying hotel. Vikki Vargas reports from Tustin for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Jan. 30, 2013.
Inside a giant hangar in Tustin, engineers are designing what they believe could be the future of air transportation and travel.
It's a prototype airship, nearly as tall as a 10-story building, which will someday carry cargo across the country and back without ever needing an airport.
The Aeroscraft, which engineers call the Dragon Dream, can "hover and offload a payload without touching the ground, as low as ten feet, then take off and fly again," according to aeronautical engineer Tim Kenny.
In June 2011, the Aeroscraft was nothing more than a carbon fiber frame. Now, the touchscreen controls are in place and it already has it first test run under its belt, lifting 40 feet off the ground just a few weeks ago.
The ultimate goal is to fly at an elevation of 12,000 feet and move 140 miles per hour.
Engineers refer to the Aeroscraft as a floating submarine only instead of adding water to move up and down, it's powered by helium.
NASA and the Department of Defense are partially funding the research and development. The DOD is eyeing the airship to carry troops and equipment. Designers said it could also become a floating hotel.
The next step for the prototype is to get FAA approval. That would allow engineers to take the airship out of the hangar for a test flight.