Blimps Of The Future
Blimps are making a comeback as a viable alternative to airplanes in terms of air cargo transportation. Although at the mention of “airship”, “zeppelin”, or “blimp” people are most likely to think back to the Hindenburg (passenger carrying blimps built by Germans in the 1930′s), blimps should be considered for their advantages. Improvements have been worked out over the years and well-known aviation companies are being encouraged to pursue developing modern airships for air transportation. With carbon emissions polluting the skies and speeding up global warming, blimps could be the heavy duty air travel solution for the world today.
Compared to airplanes which consume large amounts of fuel for take-off and flight, blimps would only need fuel to propel themselves through the skies. In many cases, transporting goods by airships cut carbon emissions by 90%. In addition, their large surface area can be utilized and fitted with solar panels, perhaps even to power the motor through solar energy alone.
Blimps would also be capable of reaching inaccessible places where there are no airports or roads. Unlike airplanes, blimps are able to take off and land vertically. This eliminates the need for standard runways, ground crews, and other airport infrastructures. It also opens a whole new set of possibilities. A blimp can land in semi-rough grounds that won’t accommodate airplanes and jets. It could directly pick up and deliver cargo between factories, farms, or stations in different countries, without the need for congested airports and road travel. This would save considerable time and energy for global business operations.
Blimps are capable of carrying heavier cargo than most airplanes and jets. Up to 200 tons can be carried back and forth by a specialized airship for less cost. This would be a very attractive option for the global cargo business. As for human passengers, luxury cruises are very much a possibility. Blimps in the past were able to accommodate 100 passengers, each with their own sleeping quarters. Although air cargo is the target market for blimps at the present, experts think it won’t be long before commercial transport catches up.
Also, the blimp’s size and speed makes it a great medium for advertising. Several blimps have been used in past years for advertisement and promotion purposes like Good Year Tires.
Several modern airships are in the works and are being tested right now. California based Aeros are the makers of “The Ecological Aircraft”, a manned airship that runs on electric motors. World SkyCat Ltd. has come up with a hybrid aircraft, the Skyliner. It is a combination of the airplane and the airship. Prototypes tested in the past have carrying capabilities of up to 1,000 tons. A $57 million blimp, named the LEMV (Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle) is set to serve the US troops in Afghanistan by 2012. Boeing announced in 2008 that it was working with Skyhook to develop and build a heavy duty lifting aircraft. A hybrid of the blimp and the helicopter, the SkyHook JHL-40 can transport a 40 ton sling load for up to 200 miles. Another company is developing the SkyLifter, an air crane able to carry 150 tons.
Blimps are definitely an eco-friendly option to air transport and travel. Lessons from the past have been learned and it’s time to give the blimp another chance to fly the skies.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Aeros.
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