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Adventure awaits! Blimps may be the future of green air travel

The restrictions on travel this past year have all of us waiting in anticipation for our next vacation. However, all this pent-up excitement is building up alongside growing concerns for the massive carbon footprint of air travel. How can we address both at once?

We have written before about how the commercial airline industry is getting more innovative in its mission to become greener and reduce emissions. Now this effort has expanded to include commercial airships.

Bedford-based blimp maker Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV) announced several routes last Wednesday that they hope will be up and running by 2025.

The airships, dubbed the Airlander 10, will have the capacity to hold 100 passengers and will take about the same time as airplane travel once you take into consideration getting to and from the airport. The most significant difference is that each passenger on this airship would have a CO2 footprint of 4.5 kg, compared with the 53 kg they would have on a jet plane.

HAV says that its aircraft was “ideally suited to inter-city mobility applications like Liverpool to Belfast and Seattle to Vancouver, which Airlander can service with a tiny fraction of the emissions of current air options.”

Tom Grundy, HAV’s chief executive, stresses that the Airlander isn’t meant to be considered a luxury product, but a practical response to climate change. According to him, 47 percent of regional airplane flights connect cities that have less than 230 miles between them and emit colossal quantities of carbon dioxide while they travel.

“We’ve got an aircraft designed to travel very long distances going very short distances when there is actually a better solution,” he says. The hybrid-electric Airlander 10, on the other hand, is able to make the same connections with a fraction of the carbon footprint that will only get smaller as the ships progress to all-electric power.

So far, the Airlander 10 prototype has had six test flights, some of which were not successful. The aircraft can take off and land from almost any flat surface and has reached heights of 7,000 ft and speeds of up to 50 knots during its final tests.

As of now, HAV has partnered with luxury Swedish travel firm OceanSky Cruises, which will offer a journey over the North Pole with Arctic explorer Robert Swan as “experiential travel,” but is in discussion with other airlines and will likely have new partnerships to announce within the next few months.

Source Image: Hybrid Air Vehicles

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