Latest technology wrapped up in a 100 meter long airship – et voilá, you got the world’s biggest aircraft, the Airlander 10. An aircraft that – if it wasn’t so huge – could well be mistaken for a proper-sized behind. At least from this angle. Don’t pretend that wasn’t the first thought you had, too!
But if you thought the backside-looking frontside was weird, have a look at the actual backside. I’m going to forego any comment at this point.
And believe it or not, this thing can actually fly. Hadn’t budget cuts crossed their plans, the US Army would have used it as a surveillance and reconnaissance craft. As it turns out, it’s now supposed to be a feasible and non-military alternative for short-distance cargo flights, police surveillance or even for TV broadcasting purposes. I’m not too sure they really thought about the massive shadow this huge flying bum will cast on any sports event happening below it. When night is falling… What are spotlights for?
Anyhow, invented in the late 19th century by the German Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin, airships took the world by storm pretty fast. And they would still crowd our skies, hadn’t they become a bit outdated when people realized that a gigantic flying balloon filled with helium was a disaster waiting to happen. Well, it did happen. Quite a few people died. That was in 1934. Jet-fueled planes have since taken over the reign of the world of aviation. If that was a much safer choice? Who knows.
Back in its heyday, the Zeppelin was shaped like a cigar, a giant flying cigar with a tiny – in comparison – passenger cabin attached. Now, the Airlander is the result of a – well – a pretty interesting design approach by the British designers at Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV). I wonder if it has to do with airflow and physics stuff. Apparently, it does, so that no less than 40 percent of the aircraft’s ascending force is a result of its shape. The remaining force needed to remain airborne comes from the helium inside.
However, I also wonder how they dealt with the rather catastrophic helium problem. That’s when Kevlar fibres come into play, yes, the same stuff bullet-proof Kevlar vests are made of. Sounds promising. The Airlander’s engineers claim that the airships ’skin‘ is capable of coping with multiple lightning strikes. That’s not exactly deflecting all of my worries. But it’s not like I have to use this big flying bum as a means of transport any time soon. Although, passenger transport is supposed to be possible as soon as 2016.
Isn’t that something to look forward to! Maybe they come up with other shapes, too, at some point. What about a … flying broccoli? Or a huge electric guitar hanging in the sky! That would at least explain, why Bruce Dickinson from Iron Maiden invested in the project… Getting weirder by the minute, isn’t it!
Thanks, The Verge, you keep amazing me with the sheer range of quirky subjects you manage to cover. We are your fans! Truly.