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Published on : Tuesday, March 22, 2016
A cross between a plane, an airship, a helicopter and a hoverboard, the Airlander 10 is the length of a football field and as tall as six double-decker buses!
The 302ft-long aircraft, which is about 50ft longer than the biggest commercial jets, has been in development by British firm Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV) for the past nine years. For the first time, it floated above the ground in a giant hangar in Cardington, while its first flight is expected later this year.
HAV believes the Airlander 10, which can take off vertically and land on almost any surface without the need a tarmac runway, including ice, sand and water, and can revolutionise the future of air travel. It can also operate from open fields, deserts, ice or water, meaning it could be useful for humanitarian missions or coastguard monitoring.
The aircraft is silent and has no emissions but needs 1.3million cubic feet of helium to get off the ground.
HAV is hoping to build 12 Airlanders a year by 2018, with the passenger aircraft able to carry up to 48 people.
More than 200 hours of test flights are required before being allowed to fly commercially.
About 60 percent of the ship’s lift is provided by helium, and the other 40 percent is driven by the ship’s aerodynamic shape and thrust from its rotating engines. In flight, it will have a top cruise speed of about 80 knots and can remain aloft for up to two weeks. It was first developed as a surveillance platform by the U.S. military, but when funding ran out, the British company took on the project. About $1.1 billion has been invested in the aircraft so far, according to the Daily Mail. Hybrid Air Vehicles is not the only manufacturer exploring lighter-than-air technologies — the U.S. Navy is working with Aeros, and Lockheed Martin also has an airship design in the works.