Airlander 10: World’s Largest Aircraft Gets Closer To Take Off
Feast your eyes upon Airlander 10, a massive airship that’s currently under construction in a suitably oversized hangar in England. The ginormous blimp was originally going to be deployed by the US Army for long-term surveillance, but in 2012 the project had to be canned due to delays and budgetary issues. That wasn’t the end of this airship’s story, though: Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV), the craft’s original designer, bought it back from the US in 2013—and now, with grants from the UK government and European Union along with a crowdfunding campaign, the world’s largest aircraft will hopefully fly again.
Although airships like the Airlander 10 look unwieldy, it has a number of unique advantages over conventional craft. Because the Airlander uses inert helium to provide most of its lift, it can stay afloat for days with minimal fuel costs. When it does move it uses only a third of the fuel of regular planes, and its capacity to hover means it can land pretty much anywhere — including on water.
According to the Airlander 10’s listed tech specs (PDF), it is 92 meters (302 feet) long, 43.5 meters (143 feet) wide, and 26 meters (85 feet) tall. The envelope has a volume of 38,000 cubic meters (1.34 million cubic feet); it’s filled with helium, so it won’t explode like the Hindenburg. The skin of the envelope is made from a composite of Kevlar, Mylar, and Vectran (all polymers), which Hybrid Air Vehicles claims can withstand some small arms fire. There are four propellers—two at the back, and one each at the front left and front right—powered by four diesel-powered turbocharged V8 engines. Max airspeed is about 80 knots, or 92 mph, with a payload capacity of around 10,000 kg (22,000 pounds).
Next year, you may catch a glimpse of Airlander in the skies or even take a ride on one.
HAV aims to produce about 40 Airlanders over the next four years and ultimately put hundreds of them in the air. The maiden voyage of a luxury passenger version of Airlander is already being promoted for next year.
Source: The Verge