Story 2015-10-13 QB79 Boeing patents weird cargo-grabbing plane

Boeing patents weird cargo-grabbing plane

in space on (#QB79)
Cargo containers streamlined and revolutionized freight. Their uniform, boxy shape and sharp edges make them instantly stackable, but not terribly aerodynamic. For transport by air, that usually means fitting square pegs into round planes. A new plane design by Boeing, granted a patent this week, could change that. Instead of slotting cargo containers into a round tube, the Boeing plane would line them up longwise in a neat row, then lower its aerodynamic body on top.

The plane as sketched out is largely empty body, with four power prop engines mounted on top of the wings. Its body looks like nothing so much as a giant pink eraser, with a little bubble of a cockpit added to the front. The plane’s landing gear are spaced wide enough apart that it can simply roll over its cargo containers before lowering down onto them.

Boeing imagines the plane at operating at altitudes less than 18,000 feet, so that the cargo doesn’t need to be pressurized. Boeing envisions such a plane as an alternative to the slow but cost-efficient shipment of low-priority bulk cargo on boats, trains, and trucks, and the light loads of fast but expensive cargo aircraft shipments. By flying shipping containers, a plane like this could deliver large quantities very quickly, where previously price made that impossible.

Where's a Zeppelin when you need one?
Reply 4 comments

Weight balancing? (Score: 2, Interesting)

by on 2015-10-13 15:48 (#QBT4)

Understanding only a little about how cargo containers are used, I would assume they are filled by volume rather than weight ( except in the cases of extremely heaving materiel, like iridium ingots or something) . So unless all of the cargo containers are of equal weight, you might have an issue with weight distribution without some smart software to figure that out. I'm assuming that wouldn't be too difficult for a company that designs planes, rockets, and space ships. But I guess that would have to be considered at least. I might not be able to send certain combinations of cargo containers, which might be an issue for my horse feather and iridium Ingot company.

Re: Weight balancing? (Score: 1)

by on 2015-10-14 00:19 (#QD81)

They could also just rotate various containers 180 degrees, and swap some front to back, etc. That would be more in line with how cargo planes (and passenger planes) deal with uneven loads.

Re: Weight balancing? (Score: 1)

by on 2015-10-14 21:00 (#QGCV)

I've always wondered how they did that for shipping cargo, but the more modular your pieces are the easier it becomes as there are more possible permutations. With a cargo container as the smallest block, it becomes more difficult. The giant cargo ships carry so many, that its a bit easier to figureout and some of it probably comes out int he wash. Like trying to balance chicken feathers and eagle feathers, no combination of them is going to break a boat.

Re: Weight balancing? (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2016-01-27 05:54 (#11ZGQ)

Great question. My plan for my invention is that the heaviest containers would go in the middle of the airplane, and then lighter ones further out (9 containers on each side of c.g.) The moment arm is more important than weight, so software tells the forklift driver which containers to put in positions 1 through 18 on the tarmac.