The Concept

The Alert is a military airship concept designed to patrol and carry out missions over the Canadian Arctic. It would be able to transport over 200 tons of equipment, troops, and supplies over Canada’s vast Arctic region. It is named after a military and scientific outpost in the Qikiqtaaluk Region, Nunavut, Canada. Alert is in fact the northernmost permanently inhabited place in the world

The Background

In 2010, the Arctic Ocean became a viable trade route when the Northwest Passage was opened. In the coming years, there will be more and more activity in the north and more demand for vehicles capable of transporting material and personnel in these challenging regions that are almost completely absent of infrastructure. The Alert would be able to patrol Canada’s border, and carry out military missions and search and rescue operations.

How it Works

Airships have been around since the 19th Century. Recently, many international aviation companies have started to revisit these aerostats, and they are working on a new generation of dirigibles. Some of these airships are equipped with new materials and technology such as variable buoyancy and advanced flight controls.

The Alert would be designed to carry at least 200 tons of cargo and cover a range of 5 000 nautical miles. It would be able to fly in IFR conditions and remain aloft for weeks at a time by carrying enough gas and fuel to sustain long missions. Its cargo compartment would feature large doors through which military trucks, snow groomers, and other rolling stock could move. Depending on its mission, the Alert’s interior could also be modified to house living quarters, labs, surveillance rooms, passenger cabins, etc.

The fabric covering the airship could be treated with Superhydrophobic coating to reduce icing. It could also feature de-icing boots, de-icing fluid nozzles, and infrared heating to reduce ice build-up. Four Pratt & Whitney PT6 turbo prop engines, delivering up to 2 000 hp and equipped with Scimitar propellers, would provide the necessary power to propel the Airship in flight and soften its landing by pivoting on axis like the Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey.

The actual choice of engines and propellers will depend on the final speed requirements and final aerodynamic shape of the airship. Under the airship, four hovering fans could be added to soften landings by pushing air downward during take-off and landing manoeuvres but maybe the tilting turboprops will eliminate the need for such system. In any case the Alert will be able to hover near the ground, facilitating landing procedures.

What it’s used For

The Arctic is a vast region with basically no infrastructure, and building such infrastructure would cost enormous amounts of money. Yet we need to be there, occupy our land, and have the appropriate equipment to do so. Developing a new generation of airship like the Alert to supply commercial and military operations and protect our borders makes sense if it can be done at a reasonable cost (Development, Tooling, Material, and Operations). These dirigibles could be purchased and operated by NATO countries, and commercial versions could also be sold to transport merchandise in other regions of the world.

The Designer

I would like to thank Abhishek Roy who created the images of the Alert. Abhishek is the founder of Lunatic Koncepts, a start-up design lab based in India. Abhishek’s team also created the renderings for the Rakoon snowmobile.