Everything is so sleek these days and built for speed, it’s somewhat surprising to see that one of flight’s latest innovations is a Zeppelin-like aircraft.
At 302 feet long, the airship is “part blimp, part plane, part helicopter,” and was created by the British company Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV). It’s initial purpose was for surveillance for the U.S. Army, but now that drones are in the picture, HAV is finding another purpose for these supersized airships. Cargo.
The Airlander 10 can carry 10 tons for up to five days. It is made of carbon fiber, kevlar and mylar, with helium keeping the pressure, and diesel fuel helping it land, take off and powering the propellers. The cockpit only holds one pilot and one observer. Designers say it only uses 20 percent the fuel burn of existing aircraft, and its 325 hp V8 engines are nearly silent. It can also be fitted with solar panels and withstand extreme weather conditions.
What’s the potential use for something like this? It can carry large loads to areas with little to no infrastructure and causes minimal environmental damage. The Airlander 10 can land on almost any flat service — water, ice, desert — so HAV is pitching it as the ideal way to carry freight to remote places and even land in emergency situations with supplies in locations that don’t have an airstrip.
Test flights are to take off later this year, and HAV hopes to have the Airlander 10 in operation by 2016.