Greener than airplanes, can zeppelins change air transport?

Fallen into disuse, airships are attempting a comeback with a massive argument: their low carbon footprint linked to their contained energy consumption. However, they have limitations and particularities that must be taken into account in order to hope to take advantage of them effectively.

Since the catastrophic Hindenburg accident, zeppelins have become rare in the landscape: they now only populate the skies of fantastic series and the pages of novels. steampunk.

Airships could however make a comeback. The company Hybrid Air Vehicles plans to launch a 100-seat hybrid version of its Airlander 10 zeppelin by 2025, unveils The Guardian. In one communicated dated May 26, the company specifies targeting 2030 for a 100% electric version of its aircraft.

The Airlander 10 zeppelin could be launched in 2025. // Source: Hybrid Air Vehicles

An air liner the size of the Stade de France

France has also identified the potential of these machines. Above the Stratobus, this very innovative stratospheric airship but which is not intended to transport the general public, another zeppelin is being developed on the territory: the LCA60T of Flying Whales, a cargo aircraft designed to carry up to 60 tons of load. This air liner will be 150 meters long, 60 wide and 40 high. ” Imagine the Stade de France, bleachers included! “, jokes Pascal Taillandier, airship project manager at Onera, in the columns of Release.

Zeppelins have limitations and peculiarities that must of course be taken into account: they do not move as fast as an airplane and are therefore generally designed for short trips. Hybrid Air Vehicles thus gives, as an example of lines that its machine could provide, the routes Liverpool – Belfast, Barcelona – Palma, or even Oslo – Stockholm.

A greener mode of air transport

Another specificity of the new airships: they require helium which does not risk igniting easily like the hydrogen which was used on the Hindenburg. However, helium is a relatively rare gas, and quite in demand, particularly in the medical sector (for MRIs) and in industry (for welding activities). Like any aircraft, airships will also have to prove that they offer a high level of safety before being authorized to take off, especially with passengers on board.

Artist’s impression of the cabin of the Airlander 10 airship. // Source: Hybrid Air Vehicles

They do, however, have one sizeable asset to highlight: their low impact on emissions. Hybrid Air Vehicles thus affirms that its Airlander 10 would generate 90% less greenhouse gas emissions than an airplane. The airship could also constitute an interesting alternative in the transport of goods.

As explained by Pascal Taillandier, airship project manager at the national office for aerospace studies and research (Onera) at Liberation in 2019: ” The airship is right between the boat – which can carry a lot of containers, but very slowly and polluting a lot – and the airplane, very fast and reliable, whose capacity is more limited, and which also pollutes a lot. You have to imagine a sort of floating barge, which can move around 100 kilometers per hour. Since it is floating in the air, it needs a lot less energy to move forward. ยป

Admittedly, these aerial barges look extremely comfortable. It remains to be seen how much the ticket will cost.

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Source: Numerama by www.numerama.com.

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