¡Los zepelines están de vuelta! Tras muchos años de abandono de esta tecnología la empresa británica Hybrid Air Vehicles ha concluido el desarrollo de su Airlander 10, que ha podido realizar su primer vuelo. La historia del Airlander nos recuerda mucho a la de los zepelines, un concepto muy en boga en los años veinte y treinta, y el Cargolifter de los años noventa, que intentaba relanzar la idea de los "barcos de aire", o dirigibles en el cielo. Lo del Airlander va en serio, ha ganado dos grandes crowdfunding (unos tres millones de Euros), cuenta actualmente con 2000 accionistas y además recibe ayuda de un fondo de la Unión Europea. Cumple con la gran idea de realizar todo tipo de objetos voladores menos contaminantes.
Sus cotas son gigantescos, 92 metros de largo y 44 de ancho, el mayor avión actualmente. Su principal objetivo no es el transporte de personas, sino de mercancías, ya que cuenta con una capacidad de carga de unas 10 toneladas y una facilidad de aterrizar en terrenos complicados, ya que no necesita pista de aterrizaje y despegue. Cuenta además con una autonomía de vuelo de más de 3.400 kilómetros... a una velocidad máxima de 150 km/h.
The first flight of Airlander 10 is a historic success and marks the commencement of Airlander 10’s Flight Test Programme which is expected to last for a number of months. After this the aircraft will begin a series of Trials and Demonstrations with prospective customers. Airlander 10 has been widely hailed as an innovation that will have a hugely positive impact on the world by providing low carbon aviation and brand new capabilities in the sky.
Customer interest is strong due to these game-changing capabilities of the Airlander – it offers a stable platform with huge amounts of power and space for search & rescue or communications equipment, and also offers a unique passenger experience.
The four massive but quiet engines were started approximately 30 minutes before takeoff. Once airborne, Chief Test Pilot David Burns, accompanied by Test Pilot Simon Davies, flew the majestic Airlander within a 6 mile (5 nautical mile) area around Cardington Airfield, just to the south of Bedford, in England. Airlander climbed to a height of 500ft and reached a maximum speed of 35 knots. Due to a later than anticipated take-off time the Airlander was limited to a 19 minute flight so we could land safely before darkness fell.
The Airlander is expected to be a showcase of UK innovation and is already being used in the UK Government’s "GREAT Britain" campaign to highlight the strength of the aerospace sector and the innovation in engineering this country is capable of creating. As the Airlander approaches first flight, customer interest has increased, particularly in the defence and security sector, and this, together with UK Government support should secure 400 new aerospace jobs as well as valuable export opportunities for the UK economy. The next step is to ensure the UK Government runs a trial in order to demonstrate the potential of this amazing aircraft to the world and secure the lucrative exports, and grow further jobs in Bedfordshire and in the supply chain across the UK (80% of Airlander’s supply chain is British). This will help ensure the £6m of UK Government grants received thus far lead to orders. Hybrid Air Vehicles Ltd is also looking to raise equity through High Net Worth individuals and Institutional Investors to fund some aspects of the Flight Test Programme.
Founded in 2007, Hybrid Air Vehicles is the company behind the innovative Airlander range of hybrid aircraft. They utilise new aerospace technology that combines the best of the characteristics of fixed wing aircraft and helicopters with lighter-than-air technology to create a new breed of hyper-efficient aircraft, with a significantly lower carbon footprint and operating cost than other forms of air transport.
Airlanders are low noise, low pollution, and are environmentally-friendly. They have ultra-long endurance, and a point-to-point cargo-carrying capacity. They can take off and land in a short distance from unprepared sites in desert, ice, water, or open field environments. Hybrid Air Vehicles has been awarded both UK and European grant funding to support the Airlander project. In addition the company has carried out two ‘crowdfunding’ rounds and is proud to have more than 2000 shareholders without whom return to flight would not have been possible. €2.5 million in funding from the EU's research and innovation programme, Horizon 2020. The Airlander project was selected for funding through a dedicated SME Instrument of Horizon 2020, which the European Commission uses to invest in and support high growth and highly innovative small businesses. The technology is also fully in line with activities under the Smart, Green and Integrated Transport Societal Challenge of Horizon 2020, which aims to boost the competitiveness of the European transport industries and achieve a European transport system that is resource-efficient, climate-and-environmentally-friendly, safe and seamless for the benefit of all citizens, the economy and society.
Airlander 10 is designed to stay airborne for up to five days at a time to fulfil a wide range of communication and survey roles, as well as cargo carrying and tourist passenger flights.