The Aeroscraft uses a combination of aerodynamic and aerostatic principles to remain airborne. Approximately two-thirds of the craft's lift is provided by helium gas. The remaining lift is provided by the forward thrust of the craft's propellers, in combination with its aerodynamic shape, and its canards (forward fins) and empennage (rear fins).
As well as its horizonal propellers, the Aeroscraft has six downward-pointing turbofan jet engines for vertical take-off and landing. The craft also uses Dynamic Buoyancy Management, a novel technology which controls buoyancy by taking in air from the surrounding atmosphere and holding it in pressurised tanks. These systems make the Aeroscraft capable of landing on rough or snowy terrain, or on water.
From the Aeroscraft website:
The Aeroscraft will have a particular advantage relative to other means of transportation for certain types of cargos. Time sensitive cargos that are currently shipped by land due to cost size and weight limitations of airfreight will be attracted to the speed of the Aeroscraft. Shipments that require multiple shipping vectors, such as truck to ship to truck, truck to aircraft to truck, etc. will benefit from the direct delivery capabilities of the craft. Where infrastructure is limited or does not exist, Aeroscraft will deliver the goods in a more timely and efficient manner.
Additional series of Aeroscraft is on the drawing board and will be scaled to payloads of up to 60 tons.
60 tons is more than even First Airs new cargo plane at 49 tons (both assuming Aeroscraft uses US short tons). Cruising speeds of 185km mean cargo can travel from a southern location to Iqaluit, Rankin Inlet, Cambridge in a day or less. It could even travel and re-supply smaller communities since it has VTOL (Vertical Take-Off and Landing), and doesn't require a traditional runway.
Economically this thing makes sense. Imagine not having to refuel in the north - the costs of fuel up north are very high even with government subsidies. With a maximum range of 5,000 kilometers, this thing would only have to refuel in the south, saving businesses, consumers, and the GN and Federal Governments a buttload of money. Without having to pay airport access fees and associated costs, one can envision even more savings. In theory, all this would need is a flat landing surface (requiring minimal maintenance) and some local heavy equipment to offload. It can even land on water or on sea ice.
It could have other uses too; tourism (Aeroscraft already has a commercial tourism model planned out, including observation decks), regular scheduled passenger or passenger/cargo combo routes between communities, a regular scheduled transit route between Baffin and Greenland, scientific aerial surveying, chartering, military surveillance, surveillance and monitoring on the Northwest Passage, search and rescue, escape from a future zombie apocalypse. The possibilities are limitless.
It is only going into production this year, and I have no idea what the pricing would be. Whatever the cost, I'm willing to bet that long-term savings would more than pay for the initial purchasing and infrastructure costs.
Get on it Nunavut. You can thank me later.