b'AIRSHIPS OFFER INTRIGUING POTENTIAL FOR PROJECT FREIGHTAirships may be making a comeback and lifting project freight could be the reason.By Matt Miller, AJOTSeptember 2023 | Published in AJOT Issue #757Imagine airships longer than a football field gracing the skies, asair-they transport passengers and cargo almost silently and seemingly effortlessly. For countless many, its a dream that has held prom-ise, romanceand heartbreakfor decades, a transformation in transportation that is always just beyond the horizon but has never quite arrived. ships Are we finally there yet? Well, not quite, and it will likely be closemay to the end of this decade before any airship manufacturer canfinallyget launch a truly commercial fleet. The field remains full of serioustheirplace contenders, as well as those whose lofty promises appear to farinthesun.But exceed on-the-ground accomplishments. However, airships nowthere are others, as have their best shot in almost a century. Whats more, not justwell.Thetechnology luxury tourism, but specialized freight is a favored trajectory.isalreadywelldeveloped. The Intriguing Potential of Airships Airships can deliver a practical waytotransportcargotoremote An airship can carry very large loads, very long distances, andlocations,whetheritbedisasterrelief, with zero emissions, said Barry Prentice, Director of the Universitywindturbinebladesorresourceextraction of Manitobas Transport Institute and a professor of supply chainequipment. They can bridge the gap between management. All the components to produce modern, reliable,costly and environmentally wasteful air freight high-quality airships exist. Thats not hype. transportandmuchslowersurfaceorocean The most significant impediment, Prentice and others believe,transport.Andtheycanworkespeciallywell, isnt necessarily technology, but money.The feasibility of pro- added Prentice, in island nations such as Indo-ducing airships is not the issue. Its financing, Prentice said. Thenesia and the Philippines, where normal logistics biggest problem for the airship industry is that you need a lot ofpatterns just cant handle the geography.capital to do this, because theres no way to start small. The Flying Whale Hybrid AirshipAirships come in many varieties and forms, although it helps to divide them in twonon-rigid and rigid. Non-rigid airships, thinkFor more than a century, airships have sparked the imagi-blimpsaregoodtoabout15tonslift,maintainingtheirshapenation of countless inventors, engineers, and just plain dreamers. through pressurized gas. These days, thats helium, although theToday is no different.industry believes that hydrogen will be used in the future for allThe field seems to be ever changing. In 2016, a NASA Ames airships. Bigger airships require a frame or rigid skeleton to holdResearch Center Study surveyed more than 50 entities with stated shape and carry loads.interest in developing airships. The study discounted almost 30 These days, most commercial airship developers are focused onof these because of funding and staffing issues, but identified 18 whats called a hybrid airship. Its an innovative design, like weldingas actively designing, building or operating airships or aerostats. two cigar blimps side by side, described Prentice. Hybrid airshipsMany of these names no longer exist or have been inactive for are generally about 20% heavier-than-air; engine thrust providesyears. The most high-profile player in that list, Lockheed Martin, necessary lift. Their advantage, said Prentice, is the ability to dropwhich benefited from millions of dollars of US Defense Depart-off a load and return empty. A British airship maker, Airlander, isment aid to develop an airship, and which had touted its product now developing all-electric engines for its hybrid airship, whichin 2016, announced this past May that it was shedding its work would make this form of transportation completely renewable. and its intellectual property and other assets were transitioned Climatechangeandthefast-growingconcernaboutmakingto a startup called AT Squared. The defense-oriented company transport more environmentally sustainable is one big reason whyappears to have lost interest.8'