Airlander 10 Moves Closer to Commercial Viability: What do you get when you cross a fixed-wing aircraft, a helicopter, and an airship? You get the world’s largest hybrid airship – a colossal, blimp-shaped, helium-filled aircraft called Airlander 10.
This summer, Hybrid Air Vehicles Ltd. conducted a successful 180-minute test flight of this massive airship in Bedfordshire, UK. It was the most recent of three test flights: the first being in 2012, as the HAV-304, during the U.S. Army’s Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle program. The second flight debuted the aircraft as the modified Airlander 10 this month last year in Cardington, England. It was this flight that formally began the performance assessment program that continues now.
The third, most recent flight, conducted by Chief Test Pilot, Dave Burns and Experimental Test Pilot, Simon Davies, was designed to accomplish three objectives:
- A safe takeoff, sustained flight, and a safe landing
- An understanding of the airship’s handling characteristics within a well-defined flight envelope
- A collection of flight performance data, including the newly added landing feet or auxiliary landing system (ALS) and the mobile mooring mast (MMM); handling, airspeed and vehicle systems
Participants in the test flight were quite pleased with the airship’s handling. The ALS performed as intended, and the more maneuverable MMM did not disappoint. More test flights will follow once the post-flight data is fully analyzed. This latest flight is considered a major milestone in moving the program closer to commercial release.
At 302 feet (92 meters) long, the Airlander is touted as the largest aircraft operating today, and it can reach altitudes up to 20,000 feet (6,100 meters) and can operate for up to five days without refueling. It is considered low noise and low pollution, environmentally friendly, and designed for short-distance take offs and landings. It is suitable for all terrains and conditions: desert, ice, and water. Airlander is also fully compliant with the Smart, Green and Integrated Transport Societal Challenge of Horizon 2020, which is geared to promote competitiveness among the European transport industries.
Ultimately, the commercial uses for this airship will involve search and rescue missions, border control, security, crowd monitoring, research, and filming. Eventually, the aircraft will also be used to transport cargo to remote, hard-to-access regions of the world.
To see more updates on aviation innovation and other technological advances, visit UAS Blog