March 27 - UK headquartered Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV) has purchased a 92 m long US Army airship and converted it into the world's longest aircraft, the Airlander 10.
The airship is able to carry up to five tonnes of cargo and land anywhere with a level surface, and its unique shape and size enables its to fly for five-days continuously.
"About 40 percent of its lift comes from being wing-shaped and about 60 percent comes from being filled with helium, from being lighter than air and that's the real difference in technology, it's a fusion of technologies going together," explained Chris Daniels, head of partnerships and communications at HAV.
Mike Durham, technical director of HAV explained: "The structure of the vehicle is lifted by the buoyant gas lift that's inside the hull, so you've got helium inside the hull, so all of the structure is being lifted that way. You can then put your payload on and you lift that either aerodynamically, courtesy of the shaping of the hull, or by vectored thrust. Our engines on each of the corners of the ship can be rotated to give you down thrust or up thrust to give you that sort of helicopter capability as well."
Durham expects the Airlander 10 to play an important role in disaster relief operations: "This has the capability of landing anywhere, delivering five tonnes and more of equipment, and we're developing a 50 tonne variant. Imagine delivering that sort of aid to anywhere to a devastated environment, but it can also stay in the air for a long time. So not only can it deliver the aid, it can then set up a mobile communications platform and allow satellite phone bandwidth and allow everyone to communicate with each other to make the second stage of aid come in much more effectively."
The craft costs approximately GBP60 million (USD100 million) and HLPFI reported on March 5, 2014 that HAV received a GBP2.5 million grant from the UK government-backed Technology Strategy Board to develop the innovative air vehicle.
HAV has also attracted sponsorship from a range of shareholders including singer and professional pilot Bruce Dickinson, from UK rock band Iron Maiden.
In 2016, HAV plans to circumnavigate the world non-stop twice onboard the Airlander, finishing in Rio de Janeiro during the Olympic Games.