Bringing Back the Dirigible!
In an age where zero carbon emissions are every environmentally responsible company's goal, the blimp (or non-rigid airship) is coming back. HAV, or Hybrid Air Vehicles, is a well-known British company committed to our planet's long-term future through sustainability while not sacrificing safety and efficiency. In 2012 they introduced the Airlander aircraft, and immediately, the possibilities started to present themself.
In HAV’s own words:
We invest in our technology
To date, over $150m has been spent developing Airlander 10 and its technology. This has included grant funding from both the EU and the UK, including a grant for the development of electric propulsion for Airlander 10 and significant investment from the United States Department of Defense. We are the world leaders in hybrid aircraft technology, the only company to have flown a full-scale prototype, and hold patents around the world.
There are critical details in the design of this aircraft that make it stand out from typical airships. First and foremost, the buoyant (aerostatic) lift is provided by helium gas. Because of this helium gas, the ship's airframe weight is offset while reducing fuel burn. Due to the weight offset, the Airlander produces 75% fewer emissions than other aircraft in its class. Second, the design of the aircraft, borrowed from a fixed-wing design, allows for aerodynamic lift. This design also saw the Airlander 10 garner the nickname “The Flying Bum.” The picture tells the story.
Lastly, the “Flying Bum” uses vectored thrust much as a helicopter does. The Airlander is equipped with four diesel engines that power the ducted propellers, which are used chiefly for take-off and landing. Each of these is illustrated below:
With a top speed of over 80mph, it isn’t the fastest method of transportation, but it just might be the quietest. Even though the Airlander uses four diesel engines, the cabin is situated in a way where the ship's hull acts as a sound and vibration barrier to any residual noise.
Legroom will not be an issue with the Airlander as there is more than enough room for the possible 100 onboard passengers. Remember that the Airlander will be fully customizable with possible bedroom en-suites during a 3-day excursion. This craft is excellent for sightseeing, with a potential range of up to 2000 nautical miles.
HAV’s goal of zero emissions by 2030 will be met using the latest electric motor and possibly solar technology. Their pursuit of 90% will be completed by 2025 using a hybrid of electric and combustion engines.
The length of the Airlander comes in at 300 feet (92 meters) and 112 feet (34m) wide.
This aircraft can land and take off almost anywhere, providing enough space to fit a 300-foot aircraft.
Expect the cruising altitude to be 10,000 feet and a maximum payload of 10 tons.
Update: Since writing this article, the BBC announced that the Spanish airline Air Nostrum Group is reserving 10 Airlander ships. The comeback is very real!