Zeppelins, the most famous rigid aircraft personified by the Hindenburg, now look somewhat retro, rather than the image of the future that they represented in the 1930s. But they could be about to make a big comeback: courtesy of a new aircraft with aluminum and solar powered housing being built by British company Varialift Airships.
According to the CEO of the company, Alan Handley, the zeppelins will be able to make a transatlantic flight from the United Kingdom to the United States, consuming only 8% of the fuel of a regular jet. It will be powered by a pair of solar engines and two conventional jet engines.
While its lack of onboard battery would limit travel to daylight hours, and its speed will only be about half that of a Boeing 747, the Varialift aircraft promises to be a payload carrier. Its creators claim that it will be able to transport loads ranging from 50 to 250 tons. Larger models with payloads of up to 3,000 tons are not out of the question either.
Bulky cargo, such as electricity towers, wind turbine blades and towers, or even pre-fabricated structures, such as oil rigs, could be transported underneath using cables. That means the load will have a weight limit, but not a practical size limit.
Because it is an aircraft, taking off more like a balloon than a plane, the Varialift aircraft could also be useful in this capacity as it does not require a dedicated runway. This could make it valuable as a delivery vehicle in places with poor infrastructure.
“Variable elevator aircraft will ultimately secure a significant percentage (possibly most) of the global air cargo business, and a small, but still extremely valuable, part of the existing road cargo business, particularly for long-haul freight. bulky or light, ”the company said. The Varialift lands vertically and becomes heavier than air through compression of the lift gas, [helium], which makes it stable for loading and unloading. "
Varialift has not yet started construction on its production model. However, a prototype measuring 140 meters long, 26 meters wide and 26 meters high is currently being built in France. New Scientist notes that it will be completed in the next nine months.