The hybrid airship Airlander 10 took off for a short first flight on the evening of August 17 from its base in Cardington in the UK. The 302 x 143ft (92 x 43.5m) helium-filled craft is part lighter-than-air blimp and part airplane. It is designed to use less fuel because its shape should give it additional lift (40%) in addition to that provided by the gas (60%) contained within its fuselage.
Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV), the aircraft’s developer, said its top speed should be 90mph (148km/h) and the aircraft could potentially stay aloft for two weeks – unmanned. Payloads up to 10 metric tons are planned for the aircraft which can also land anywhere (water, land, desert, ice), which its developer says could open up new point-to-point routes to previously inaccessible areas.
The original concept was designed for the US Air Force, which wanted an aerial battlefield surveillance craft that could stay aloft for weeks. The project was cut during 2014 budget cuts but not before US$300m had been invested in development, and the building and testing of the prototype. The building cost for the prototype was approximately US$100m. HAV purchased the prototype for US$300,000 and took it to the UK, after which point the company made over 100 design changes, making it essentially a new design.
Several rounds of fundraising have raised money through crowdfunding initiatives and private investors. Militaries around the world are interested in the craft which has a similar lifting capacity to Chinook CH-47. Military use could be 40 to 50% of the total sales and perhaps 100 vehicles could be flying within five years, HAV said.
August 19, 2016