zeppelins the skies fly in
Dark matterThe pica trilogy of novels by Philip Pullman fantsticas. These giant aircraft in the parallel universe of books, are responsible for sending mail, transport soldiers into battle and also to explore the Arctic.
What once was my local post office in Oxford, Pullman's novels is a station of
zeppelines (also known as targetable) where I can take a night flight to London. But when I leave aside the fiction of his books, the reality is quite disappointing.
Pequeos few and dirigibles flying proudly over the United States promoting companies like Goodyear, Carnival Cruise or T-Mobile. A few other tourists used to walk in panormicos trips on the fields of Germany. And another can be found flying over the Amazon. Ah it ends.
The good news is that the real world can soon resemble the fantasy of Pullman. And if all goes well, from here four or five years,
one of the first models Airlander, the huge zeppelin I hybrid dubbed "flying dirigible" being the first aircraft to fly over the North Pole since 1928.
Man and woman on board IRN are not explorers, but tourists have paid a luxury experience $ 80,000. But
Airlander Do not fly alone. Around the same time, a vast aircraft be alzndose also about the heat and humidity of Jingmen, China.
His work be to carry heavy objects in one of the most difciles places of the planet. And it is that manufacturers have high ambitions for this new era of aviation. In fact, they expect that in the next ten years there are about 15 of these aircraft floating around the world.
In the history books,
Hindenburg accident in 1937 marks the end of a short stage of zeppelins, but the truth is that it was not so. US Navy continu using airships to attack submarines during World War II.
So zeppelin Hindenburg caught fire in 1937
And Corporacin of Airships US (The American Blimp Corporation, in English) fabric these aircraft to use as advertising. In Germany, on the other hand, the company Zeppelin aircraft remained high tech building. Many engineers and pilots have developed a theory that there is no race.
Much of these projects failed because of exaggerated ambitions, insufficient funding or being led by visionaries when people really needed more pragmatic.
The fact that this technology shall be so embryonic that provoc been ignored. The challenge of building giant aircraft infravalor. However, today's manufacturers estn determined to do things differently.
A new age
The Airlander is a creation of hybrid vehicles Air (HAV, for its acronym in English) founded in 2007 by the pioneer in aeronautics Roger Munk british.
The technological center of HAV is hidden and isolated in an industrial area on the outskirts of Bedford, one hour north London. Inside this room is the module load the Airlander prototype, an full of electronic devices used in the last test flight.
And beside him, is the model of the cabin for flight to the North Pole. I am the first journalist to see it.
There are windows along both sides and also behind the cab.
In addition, a glass floor and leather sofa Valo as to the style of James Bond films that seems to float on air.
Is set for the lucky passengers feel while enjoying a cocktail event in the bar glass bar.
How is the luxurious interior of the Airlander 10
The Airlander looks very different from the aircraft of Pullman's books by a simple reason: its hybrid design. This allows you to travel faster and carry more cargo than its rivals.
Initially, the ship was developed for the US military. But when that program was canceled in 2013, they took it back to the UK and rebuilt it for civil use. Call him Airlander 10 and finally withdrew in January 2019 after seven test flights.
The problem for investors and potential buyers is that it is still an expensive design and high risk. "Our flights proved to the outside world that the Airlander is real. Until then, there is a risk that people will look at them and think it was a PowerPoint presentation," says Nick Allman, HAV chief of operations.
"Adding helium to the mixture with other technologies gives you certain advantages, such as resistance. We can maintain a large load in the air for a long time compared to small drones and without spending so much money. It is the operating costs that entail problem for clients such as the military, "he adds Allman.
"Customers are interested in the function of moving people from one point to another," says Rebecca Zeitlin, manager of communication and means of HAV.
"You can do that in a Range Rover, helicopter or avin, but none of these means respect both the environment and the aircraft they want to manufacture. Commercial passenger transport is not dead either. We are chatting with people who want to use the ship to transport people traditionally by strong anti-aircraft movement. they are individuals who think they better be more longer, pay more and generate less emissions, "adds Zeitlin.
The hybrid zeppelines emit only a fraction of those of a conventional airplane. And the UK government he offered $ 1.3 million to try to reduce them to zero generating an electric propulsion system for aircraft larger size.
Despite its large size, the Airlander 10 remains relatively small. As customers who want to use it for heavy loads do well to wait for the Airlander 50, which has already been designed.
This is the market where rivals HAV think that is the best opportunity.
The Center for Advanced Programs at Lockheed Martin in Palmdale (LMH), California, is famous for its turned reconnaissance aircraft U-2 and SR-71.
But probably gain more notoriety for their zeppelins. The great American hybrid airships program also has its all base, behind the security fences that enclosure.
The project was launched during an exhibition in Paris in 2015 and zeppeln has a similar size to that of Airlander. Unlike its rival british HAV, this program is an taking its first steps. "Demand is created when customers have unmet needs," explains Robert Boyd, Lockheed program manager.
"We have identified a need for a safe and sustainable solution that can carry heavy weights and people to remote communities that have little or no infrastructure," he continued.
"Airships can have numerous utilities: humanitarian, natural resource extraction and transport of heavy operations. It is also possible that once inside the market, other uses are discovered. In this case, the sky is not the limit," said Boyd .
The blue whale-shaped airship is known under the name of LCA60T. Despite its unusual design, it is built with the aim of reducing the risk and costs and ensure the project is carried out. Underneath that skin high tech, its electrical engineering and advanced supercapacitors, is basically one zeppeln that has already been tested as those of Pullman's books.
LCA60T is the product of well-funded and ambitious startup
Flying Whales (flying whales) based in Paris and founded by Sbastien Bougon.
Flying Whales has an impressive list of shareholders including the governments of France, China and Québec, in Canada. The Company Industrial General Aviation and Aircraft China, known for its almost aggressive persecution of new technologies, is Duea of 25% of the startup.
The company has obtained US $ 320 million to manufacture its aircraft in Bordeaux, France, near Montreal, in Canada and in Jingmen, China.
Flying Whales junt with another company is to develop the necessary methods to mass produce zeppelines. Another, DESARROLL one station 30 meters high so as to minimize the size of the aircraft infrastructure needs on the ground.
Also signed a formal agreement with an operator of international airports leader to build zeppelins 150 bases around the world.
"We analyzed a lot of old aircraft projects to learn from them. We want to transport 60 tons of cargo and have a powerful propulsion system. To do that you need something strong," says Michle Renaud, operations manager at Flying Whales.
"We will have our own company operations because there are many times when someone might need a zeppeln. For example, in a situation of humanitarian disaster, where surely a technical support provided by people who know how to operate the aircraft needed," explains Renaud .
Flying Whales's ambition does not end here. In late 2019, start developing for two years its own fleet of dirigibles hybrid for French petroleum company Total. The aircraft was called Manta, and be much more small than HAV and Lockheed designs.
Is planned to be fleet of 50 airships that usarn for supplies and equipment measurement that are too heavy to be carried by drones. At the moment, there are no plans to build a more extensive fleet.
After my visit, I HAV announced that two clients Haban signed agreements with the intention of buying Airlanders. Production is about to start and the company renew its connection with US military body after allying with an aerospace company that will propose one Airlander for the pentagon.
"We are leaving behind the fact of being a group of people involved in aircraft for a long time. We need to keep everything learned, but now we need to do more, and that is why we have brought people with significant experience in this field," Allman told me .
There is an old photograph from 1913 of a zeppeln on the floor of the Parks of the University of Oxford surrounded by curious onlookers. In 1930, the huge dirigible R100 british plane over the center of Oxford and paraliz the city.
In 2007, a local entrepreneur proposed a commercial zeppeln that connect Oxford and Cambridge in an hour. But then the world was not ready for such a visionary low emission flight project. However, the fantasy of Pullman fly from Oxford to London on an overnight zeppeln is now increasingly closer.
. Why zeppelins can be the solution to the transport congestion and air pollution – THE NATION