Are “blimps” the future of air transport?

Almost forgotten for decades, airships or blimps with various projects are trying to come back to prominence. Among the latter we find that of a British aircraft manufacturer. His hybrid airship will initially be able to carry 100 passengers.

A large airship for short distances

After a first flight in March 1936, the airship LZ 129 Hindenburg of the German company Zeppelin was simply the largest commercial airship never made. Nevertheless, after fourteen months of service between Europe and the United States, the machine disappeared after a terrible fire on May 6, 1937. At the time, the media impact of this accident was so great that the adventure of transatlantic airship transport ends. Since then, airships still exist, but are much more present in the cinema. Nevertheless, new projects suggest that zeppelins of some importance will see the light of day in the near future.

For example, a press release published by the British company Hybrid Air Vehicles on May 26, 2021 presents a: one hundred seat hybrid airship to be launched on the market by 2025. It is a variant of the Airlander 10 zeppelin, which should also take the form of a final 100% electric version around 2030. However, Hybrid Air Vehicles believes that airships have limits such as the speed that are far from that of aircraft. For example, the company has thought of short journeys, here are some examples: Oslo-Stockholm, Liverpool-Belfast or Barcelona-Palma de Mallorca.

Airlander 10 airship
Credits: Hybrid Air Vehicles

Zeppelins have less impact on the environment

Also remember that most airship projects like those of hybrid air vehicles run on helium. Their danger is therefore very low compared to old airships such as the LZ 129 Hindenburg which ran on hydrogen, a highly flammable product. Nevertheless, helium is a relatively noble gas and in demand in various sectors such as medical (MRI) and industrial (welding). However, like any type of aircraft, blimps must: prove their high security level before they can carry passengers.

Hybrid Air Vehicles also plays the ecology card. His new Airlander 10 would emit 90% less greenhouse gases than an airplane. In addition, airships could be an interesting alternative for the transport of goods. Amazon and Walmart have been realizing this for some time now, as both companies filed patents for future “flying warehouses” in 2017.

Finally, in March 2021, we mentioned another airship project. Google co-founder Sergei Brin advertised for a job at his airship start-up LTA Research. The target? Finally design a huge hydrogen fuel cell with a capacity of 1.5 MW.