A vast zeppelin, as tall as a 23-storey building, has been inflated in a hanger in Alabama in preparation for its maiden voyage later in the year. The airship, which is 72m long, bears the name “Bullet 580” and can carry loads of up to 907kg at altitudes of around 20,000 feet (6,096m). A video of it inflating is embedded below.
The airship has a top speed of 80mph, and the idea is that it would be positioned above one location, and use its motors to stay in position. There’s a series of potential civilian and military applications, including missile defence, weather monitoring, surveillance, GPS and broadcast and communications relays.
The outer shell is made of a new type of Kevlar that’s 10 times stronger than steel, but can be deployed as thinly as 1.6mm around the structure. Cargo sits within that outer envelope. It was developed by a company called 21st Century Airships, which has since been acquired by E-Green Technologies who plan to build a series of commercial airships.
Following a long period of neglect, airships are starting to be considered by companies again thanks to their cost-effective nature compared to the price of running a fixed-wing aircraft or pushing a satellite into space.
Michael Lawson, chairman and CEO of E-Green Technologies, told Space.com: “Our airships are radically different designs that move beyond the performance limitations of traditional blimps or zeppelins by combining advanced technology with simple construction and the ability to fuel with algae, protecting our environment.”
Just don’t mention the Hindenberg.
Source: http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2010-05/26/world’s-largest-airship-inflated-for-maiden-flight , accessed 04/06/2010