Science and Technology

The flying beasts

| Updated on June 20, 2021

The big beasts of the skies are coming back.

Airships — once regarded as unsafe, thanks partly to the 1936 Hindenburg tragedy — became passé as aircraft powered by fossil fuels took to the skies. Now, low-carbon imperatives, better aerodynamics, fuel-efficient engines and hovercraft-like features are bringing back the leviathans of flying.

The biggest advantage is that they are lifted by helium, so no power is needed for lifting and staying afloat — the light gas provides the buoyancy. Once in the air, you only need fuel for forward movement. As such, airships cut carbon emissions, and this will reduce even further when green hydrogen replaces helium — as technological advancements guarantee safety with the inflammable hydrogen.

Several companies are getting into the manufacture of airships — the US giant Lockheed Martin, British Hybrid Air Vehicles, French Flying Whales and Israel’s Atlas LTA.

Sure, the airships are slow, but they are still faster than ferries. Then there are opportunities like freight, tourism, rescue operations and providing access to remote areas.

Published on June 20, 2021

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