The Case For Hybrid Air Vehicles To Replace Airliners Is Made By Their Airship

The Case For Hybrid Air Vehicles To Replace Airliners Is Made By Their Airship
Courtesy by Hybrid Air Vehicles

The hybrid-electric Airlander 10 airship from Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV) is expected to be ready for regional airline service beginning in 2025. Newly released cabin concepts show possible configurations ranging from a spacious 10-seat layout for luxury tours or on-demand urban air mobility services to higher-density versions for scheduled city-to-city operations.

The UK-based company says the aircraft will be able to support airline routes of up to around 425 km (265 miles). With a top speed of around 75 kts (86 mph), the Airlander 10 will be significantly slower than conventional aircraft. HAV, however, believes that it can remain competitive by offering passengers the option to fly from seafronts, docks, or any flat land surface directly to another downtown location.

The Airlander would, in some cases, generate 75 percent less CO2 emissions than alternative transportation methods. A version of the airship that is all-electric should be available by 2030, according to the company.

Airlander's outer hull fabric contains helium for lift, its composite structure is powered by two diesel engines, and its electric propulsors power 500 kW. With regards to the propulsion system, Collins Aerospace is HAV's key partner, and the University of Nottingham's aerospace engineering department is also a partner.

Using a selection of sample city pairs, HAV demonstrated that the Airlander would have a much smaller environmental footprint than today's aircraft and cars. Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per passenger could even be lower than those from train services.

An Airlander 10 flight from downtown Seattle to downtown Vancouver would take four hours and 12 minutes, generating 4.61 kg of CO2. The same trip via current airline service would take three hours and six minutes, but would emit 53.15 kilograms of CO2 per passenger.

As another example, Scandinavian governments are implementing policies to reduce the carbon footprint of air travel. From the center of the Norwegian capital, Oslo, to Stockholm in Sweden, the Airlander 10 would be able to reach the destination in six hours and 33 minutes, much longer than the three-hour, 49-minute airline journey, but with just 4.58 kg of CO2 per passenger, compared to 64.28 kg in the airline flight.

Barcelona in northeast Spain to Palma on the Mediterranean island of Mallorca are other potential city pairs where HAV believes the Airlander would compete favorably with both airline and ferry services. Airships would be significantly faster than ferries and not much slower than airlines on the Liverpool-to-Belfast route in the UK.

George Land, HAV's director of commercial business development, said flying has been a necessity but not always a pleasure for many decades. The whole experience on Airlander is pleasant, even enjoyable." 

Approximately 47 percent of regional airline flights are shorter than 370 km, according to research conducted by UK industry group Aerospace, Defence and Space. According to HAV chief executive Tom Grundy, the Airlander can offer a viable alternative to turboprop and jet airliners, as well as train routes, for which infrastructure can be costly, or not available at all.

In addition to surveillance platforms for military and government agencies, HAV developed the Airlander for the long-defunct Long-Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle (LEMV). A prototype of that project was destroyed in November 2017 after it detached from a mooring mast.

A civil certification process is now expected to begin later this year, and three aircraft will conduct test flights by 2023. For the Airlander 10 to be produced at initial rates of 12 per year, Grundy says it needs to raise about £140 million again.

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