November 17, 2007
The Zeppelin NT airships have had a superb saftey record thus far and are quite fuel efficient.
They are also fricking Zeppelins...which makes them trancendentally cool.
This type of Zeppelin is interesting because it generally operates slightly heavier than air. It gains the few hundred pounds of lift it needs from its fins or its vectorable propellors, though by dropping ballast it can float like a balloon if necessary. The design allows for far better foul weather performance and, as a bonus, a ground crew of as few as 3 which is a huge improvement over previous designs. Because of their rigid construction and compartmentation, Zeppelins are more robust than Blimps (which have no internal bracing).
If approved by the San Fransisco city council, this will be the first rigid airship to be based in the US since the decomissioning of USS Los Angeles (ZR3), and the first to be comercially operated.
Besides the retrocool cool factor, Airships, because of their fuel efficiency have a lot of undevelloped potential for ultra low pollution comercial air travel, although they are slower than planes (about 120 kts max). They can also cary fairly heavy loads to remote areas and so have some potential as freightliners.
On the military side, airships have great potential for Search and Rescue, Airborne Early Warning, Antisubmarine and mine clearance both at sea and, interestingly, over land using a big ground penetrating radar and other sophisticated sensors. The mines could be destroyed with cannon or if detected near a civillian dwelling a BD team could be landed. I read recently that one company (Airship Industries of the UK I think) did some considerable work in this arera but there were no takers. This last option gives the potential to clear large areas of landmines quite efficiently.
Pic via Modern Airships which has scads of links concerning...well...modern airships.
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