CargoLifter says the CL 160 isn't designed to take the place of other cargo transport vehicles, such as trucks, trains or airplanes. Instead, the airship will supplement those conventional means when it is necessary to get large cargo to hard-to-reach locations. The airship is equipped with a loading frame that can carry up to 160 tons (352,000 pounds / 160,000 kg).
The airship's loading frame is attached to the keel. During the loading phase, the airship hovers about 328 feet (100 m) in the air while the loading frame is lowered to the ground using winches installed in the keel. To keep the airship stable during loading, four guide cables are lowered to the ground and anchored to pylons.
Unloading is a little trickier. The airship is carrying a very heavy load, so if it lowers the cargo to the ground and the cargo is simply removed from the loading platform, the airship would soar into the sky due to the sudden decrease in weight. To maintain stability, the airship is equipped with a system that will pump in water to compensate for the weight of the unloaded cargo. Also, the payload is not lowered all the way to the ground. It is lowered by the winches to about 130 feet (40 m) above the ground. Cables attached to the loading platform are lowered to the ground and anchored to stabilize the loading platform. The cargo is then lowered the remaining 130 feet by cable. The entire unloading process will take about two hours.
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