Watching a blimp soar overhead — whether operated by the military or a corporation — can be an awe-inspiring site. After all, the airships contain enough helium to fill more than three-quarter million balloons. But, that doesn’t actually make them all that lightweight.
So, how does a crew secure a 10-ton airship filled with 200,000 cubic feet of helium once it lands? With a fast-moving crew, strong ropes and heavy-duty anchors. But how the crew secures the ropes and anchors can vary.
Slow and Cumbersome
For years, ground crew teams have relied on gas-powered crank units — often called anchor crankers — to drill the anchors into the ground that secure the airships. At takeoff, the crews wrench the anchors out by hand — a slow and cumbersome process that can cause arm and back strain.
Crews knew there must be a faster, less strenuous way to keep a 250-foot-long airship secured. One such crew turned to Little Beaver, a longtime earth drill manufacturer, to see what type of customized solution the Texas-based team could provide.
Little Beaver recommended switching to hydraulic earth drills since their high torque allows for easily drilling in nearly any soil — a key feature for airships, which regularly land at different locations across the United States.
Coupling the drill with Little Beaver’s anchoring attachments and anchors allowed the airship’s ground crew to easily secure each anchor in less than a couple of minutes. When it’s time to move to the next location, operators simply use the drill’s reverse gear to remove the anchors. This speeds up the takeoff process and eliminates back-straining work.
The airship’s ground handling crew can now install and remove anchors for each ship in the fleet in less than a half hour. It’s saved hundred of hours each year for the crew compared to their former anchoring methods.
A “Grounded” Solution
Additionally, since ground crews work outside, Little Beaver made custom handles to enhance operator safety during inclement weather. Working with customers to develop one-of-a-kind solutions to unique challenges is not uncommon for Little Beaver. In this case, they made handles using fiberglass instead of steel to reduce susceptibility to lightning strikes.
While airship anchoring is not a huge market, Little Beaver drills offer the versatility and customization necessary to anchor anything from airships and mobile homes to utility poles and party tents. And the next time they receive a custom request for a specialized anchoring system, Little Beaver engineers are confident they can create a solution.