The Airlander 10 has just made its maiden flight to test if the unusual design is airworthy and it passed with flying colors. Originally designed for the US military as a reconnaissance and communication system, the project was scrapped when it ran out of funding. The design was then purchased back from the US military by its developers, Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV) where it was repurposed for transporting cargo to remote areas of the world. This aircraft, though a bit humorous looking, has the potential to dramatically revolutionize the supply chain in a few different ways.
Dubbed, the longest aircraft in the world at over 302ft end to end, it can transport up to 20,000 pounds of cargo and land nearly anywhere. It doesn’t need a port or an airfield to touch down as the innovative pads on the bottom of the craft allow the vehicle to land on water, ice, sand and nearly any other kind of surface imaginable.
With a max cruising speed of 91mph and capable of sustaining flight for 5 days with a manned crew or up to two weeks if it flies autonomously, it could be an extremely capable means of transporting cargo. Congested ports are already holding up the supply chain around the world and a craft that can land in a facilities open field or even next to a secluded oil rig in the middle of the desert has caught the attention of businesses and logistics providers. Much faster than cargo sea vessels, this can open the door to new opportunities for logistics providers especially if they deal with customers in remote regions.
Airlander 10 is a mix between a helicopter, airplane and blimp. Though it uses helium for lift, its aerodynamic design allows it to fly at incredible speeds and generate additional lift while it flies. This is an innovative use of new and old technology to create one capable cargo vessel.
Hybrid Air Vehicles expects to sell each airship $40 million and oil and mining companies will be key customers. These industries often have operations in remote areas of the world and this makes transporting components and additional cargo to these locations extremely difficult and costly with conventional methods. The Airlander is much more affordable to keep in the air and having the ability to land nearly anywhere can lead reduced shipping costs as the cargo doesn’t need other forms of transportation in order to reach its indented destination. Once Airlander 10 passes all of the scheduled tests, HAV hopes to start producing around 10 aircraft a year by 2021.
It is still not certain if this new form of cargo transportation will be accepted by the current market but it still is a feat of engineering and technological achievement. With its unique capabilities it could prove to be an assist for industries that work in secluded areas and may even help alleviate already congested ports around the world.
Below you can watch a video of the short test flight that took place earlier this week.
[Video Source: bit.ly/2bly6c9]