Thank you Brits for transforming a U.S. Army airship into the world’s longest aircraft – and a disaster relief revolution. This large craft runs on helium and has the capability to land pretty much anywhere with a level surface.
Airlander 10, a craft sold from the U.S. Army back to its original British designers, Hybrid Air Vehicles, is now repurposed for commercial use. The designers claim the airship could revolutionize air cargo transportation. Hybrid’s Head of Communications, Chris Daniel, points out that the craft’s aerodynamic shape permits it to generate lift like an airplane’s wing.
Chris Daniels says, “About 40% of its lift comes from being wing shaped, and about 60% comes from being filled with helium, from being lighter than air and that’s the real difference in technology, it’s a fusion of technologies going together. And the final point about ourselves is we’re very low carbon, we’re very green.”
In spite of being the longest aircraft (92 meters), it uses up to 70% less fuel than a typical aircraft since its runs on one engine. In a pod found under the craft’s hull, a two-man crew and up to 22 passengers can be accommodated. Mike Duram, Hybrid’s Technical Director, explains the crafts mobile similarities to a helicopter – boasting the ability to thrust upwards and downwards. But it offers many other great features…
Mike Duram says, “You’ve got helium inside the hull, so all of the structure is being lifted that way. You can then put your payload on and you lift that either aerodynamically, courtesy of the shaping of the hull, or by vectored thrust… The whole hull of this ship is pressure stabilized, so there’s no internal structure at all. So it’s an external membrane skin. This is a sample piece of the fabric from it. As you can see, very thin. Incredibly high tenacity, though.”
Holding up to five tons of cargo – many stand in amazement. But that pales in comparison to its larger version, the $100-million Airlander 50. It can carry up to 10 times as much cargo.
But, this is what makes the Airlander 10 particularly great for disaster relief: its ability to fly for five straight days. CEO Steve McGlennan shares a few words.
Steve McGlennan says, “So it can land vertically when it’s very heavy, full of payload. It takes a very short landing, perhaps less than its own hull length, so there’s no need for a runway whatsoever. It needs just a broadly flat space…. It can land on water, ice, swamp, it can land on any reasonably flat surface.”
In August 2012, the Airlander 10 had its inaugural test flight over the Bedfordshire hangars… where it’s currently housed. Hybrid Air Vehicles has big plans… such as a twice-round-the-world trip to some of the Earth’s biggest cities. It’s beyond excited about this new aircraft’s capability, as this new technology is sure to take off in a major way.