back to article Massive new AIRSHIP to enter commercial service at British dirigible base

An enormous airship built for the US forces has been bought back by its British designers and is to go into commercial service based in old Blighty. Regular Reg readers will already be familiar with the ship, formerly designated as the first of the US Army's* planned fleet of Long Endurance Multi-intelligence Vehicle (LEMV) …

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  1. TRT Silver badge

    They almost laughed him out of the boardroom...

    I thought it would be a good idea, in this day and age of speed and... things like that, to build an... airship.

    1. Brenda McViking

      Re: They almost laughed him out of the boardroom...

      Well, at least in the Marine industry, the EU is heavily funding research into ways of emitting less CO2 (regardless of your beliefs as to whether that's a good thing), and one of the ideas seriously being considered is the use of sails - the downside is that they're efficient at 12kts, not the 18kts cargo carriers current go. But, there is a glut of cargo carriers, and you can get the same throughput with more ships on the ocean going slower. It of course means that you'll be waiting for your big-TV shipment from Hong Kong for around 33% longer, but presumably if you're shipping by sea rather than air, it's because you want it cheap and are willing to sacrifice time for that.

      So a slow (it's still ~4+ times quicker than shipping by sea), heavy lifter market may work - it has drawbacks- indeed the weather restrictions for a dirigible presumably are more strict than a helicopter, but just because it's slow doesn't mean it could be useful. I can think of lots of companies who wouldn't mind the capability to lift 50 tonnes out on short notice - oil companies spring to mind. Whether they'd let 50 tonnes of swinging cargo next to an offshore rig is questionable, but in terms of getting say, heavy machinery from a manufacturer in Germany to a site in Africa somewhere in a reasonable time frame for less money than hiring a C-17 Globemaster- I can see that there might be a market for that.

      1. h4rm0ny

        Re: They almost laughed him out of the boardroom...

        Furthermore, I think there could be a market for transporting people with these things. Whilst obviously slower than a plane, they're much cheaper to run and provide a lot more comfortable space. As fuel costs rise, people look at cheaper options and if that cheaper option is more like a ship (walk around an open space, some tables to sit at, a bar, even a personal cabin) than like a plane (cramped little seat and tiny little aisle you're contorted into for seven hours), then there're plenty of people who'd prefer to take the "cruise" approach to getting there. Especially in an age where if it had decent Internet access, you could still work.

        I've been in love with these things ever since Indiana Jones threw someone off one ("No ticket!"). Planes have had decades of refinement and advancement. I'd love to see what we could do with airships.

        1. Squander Two

          "there're plenty of people who'd prefer to take the "cruise" approach" @h4rm0ny

          > Especially in an age where if it had decent Internet access, you could still work.

          Exactly. In this day and age, it doesn't need to be fast, it needs wi-fi. In fact, its going pretty slowly could be an advantage for the international commuting crowd: no need to strap everyone firmly into rigid seats in case of a high-speed crash means you could have mobile meeting rooms with big comfy swivel-chairs. Transporting a firm's entire board from London to New York in a fully Net-connected mobile boardroom is surely a pretty easy sell.

          I think these things' big market in the developed world is not so much that they could provide the same crappy service as jets more cheaply as that they could be as luxurious as first-class BA at the price of Easyjet. (I'm talking about luxury in terms of legroom and comfort, not complimentary champagne, obviously.)

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "there're plenty of people who'd prefer to take the "cruise" approach" @h4rm0ny

            "Transporting a firm's entire board from London to New York in a fully Net-connected mobile boardroom is surely a pretty easy sell."

            If they are valuable enough to justify freighting these people a quarter of the way round the world, why will it be cost effective to put them on an airship that will take about forty hours for this trip? And if physical presence is essential, what's the point in worrying about a net connected boardroom? The rationale for boardroom net connections is usually so that you can link your meeting rooms via video conferencing without travelling in the first place.

            1. Squander Two

              Re: "there're plenty of people who'd prefer to take the "cruise" approach" @Ledswinger

              Well, I was giving one illustrative example of what I think is a far more general selling point. But, that being said....

              > If they are valuable enough to justify freighting these people a quarter of the way round the world, why will it be cost effective to put them on an airship that will take about forty hours for this trip?

              Because they could be at work for the entire trip, which they couldn't on a jet. That's the point: if you've got Net access and a decent desk to work at, journey time ceases to be a major consideration because it's time at work, not time away from work.

              > And if physical presence is essential, what's the point in worrying about a net connected boardroom? The rationale for boardroom net connections is usually so that you can link your meeting rooms via video conferencing without travelling in the first place.

              You could, for instance, move a load of top brass across the Atlantic because they need to demo some software in New York, and they could be connected to their devs and other software experts in Sydney and London and Stockholm and Dublin for the entire trip while they work on getting the demo to work as smoothly as possible (or just at all), and of course connected to their main servers that the software uses. That sounds like the sort of thing my firm might do; I'm sure there are dozens of other use cases.

              Actually, thinking about this some more, if I or one of my colleagues were between clients for a week or more, and there was the option of a method of transport to the next client's workplace that was cheaper than a plane and enabled us not only to work but to be connected and reachable for the entire trip, I can't imagine my employers not insisting on it.

            2. Hollerith 1

              Re: "there're plenty of people who'd prefer to take the "cruise" approach" @h4rm0ny

              Or you can talk in private in a place that can be shielded and inaccessible.

          2. Kunari

            Re: "there're plenty of people who'd prefer to take the "cruise" approach" @h4rm0ny

            Sorry, but 35-ish MPH verses the 500+ of a jet? Sounds nice, but I don't think there is a big enough market in that slow of a travel mode, if there was Trains would be more popular than they are now. Perhaps if it could be big enough to rival cruise ships on their routes.

            1. boltar Silver badge

              Re: "there're plenty of people who'd prefer to take the "cruise" approach" @h4rm0ny

              "Sorry, but 35-ish MPH verses the 500+ of a jet? Sounds nice, but I don't think there is a big enough market in that slow of a travel mode,"

              That'll be why cruise ships do so well I suppose.

              "if there was Trains would be more popular than they are now"

              I don't know where you live but here in the UK trains ARE very popular and the Eurostar to paris and brussels carries far more passengers per day than aircraft to the same destinations do.

            2. MJI Silver badge

              Re: "there're plenty of people who'd prefer to take the "cruise" approach" @h4rm0ny

              Trains are often packed, when they are the quickest 100-200 mile or so means of transport they tend to be busy.

              GWML is something else, people are commuting 100 miles or so in about an hour.

              Luxury cruises, well airship sounds civilised.

        2. Hollerith 1

          Re: They almost laughed him out of the boardroom...

          I saw some footage from the early 1930s of passengers looking down on (I think) Brazil as they drifted slowly and gracefully out over the Atlantic to Europe and thought 'I want to do that'. I can't think of a more fascinating way of viewing spectacular scenery: ah, yes, glass of wine in hand while I watch the Andes or the Sahara slip below me, or as the sun sets over Sri Lanka and lights the Indian Ocean with gold. Please, please sell me a ticket--especially after I retire and have plenty of time to enjoy the wonders of the earth.

        3. ammabamma
          Thumb Up

          Re: "there're plenty of people who'd prefer to take the "cruise" approach" @h4rm0ny

          > if that cheaper option is more like a ship (walk around an open space, some tables to sit at, a bar, even a personal cabin) than like a plane (cramped little seat and tiny little aisle you're contorted into for seven hours), then there're plenty of people who'd prefer to take the "cruise" approach to getting there. Especially in an age where if it had decent Internet access, you could still work.

          Have you seen the site airships.net? It is one of the most comprehensive sites out there for all things airship (please let me, and more importantly the webmaster of that site know if you find something with more information).

          They have a stunning collection of photographs of the Hindenberg's interior (http://www.airships.net/hindenburg/interiors).

          I for one certainly would not mind taking the "cruise" approach with space to walk about, decent chairs, and large windows.

        4. bep

          Re: They almost laughed him out of the boardroom...

          I second this motion. Given the number of people happy to cruise down the Rhine on an enlarged barge, shirley there would be punters happy to fly slowly down the Rhine at 50 knots or so? Paris to Venice by airship? I should cocoa! Apparently the airship travel experience is incomparable, why not give people the chance to enjoy it?

        5. Apriori

          Re: They almost laughed him out of the boardroom...

          The only problem is that Imperial Airways with lots of space, plenty of stops and smoking anywhere has turned into RyanAir. The main virtue of RyanAir is the same as tooth extraction or execution by firing squad. The pain doesn't last all that long.

          Imagine a 'budget airline' version of a blimp doing 90mph all the way to New York...

        6. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: They almost laughed him out of the boardroom...

          With Development and new materials such as graphine they may be able to up the speed, and refine the shape to more like a wing to improve operations in wind. If they got to 100mph they could run a city centre to city centre service. Manchester to London as the Crow flies would only take a few around an hour and a half at that speed. That would still be faster than the HS2 train service with out the need for destruction of the English Country Side, and more than likely more cost effective.

          The other advantage is the bigger they get the more they can lift and more efficient.

          Probably get laughed of the board for this but a flying vehicle that efficient and can lift large loads and land in a football field in a city centre deserves some consideration and out of the box thinking. Intercity Air Coach now that's the future for me :)

      2. Grease Monkey Silver badge

        Sails?

        Kites would be more efficient. I know there have been lots of ideas and patents in recent decades for the use of kites for powering ships particularly at low speed, but they don't seem to have caught on.

        1. ElReg!comments!Pierre

          Sail

          The (in)famous Calypso did quite well with her turbosail, even though there were problems from time to time (Cousteau was operating on a very tight budget and the design was new-ish). Still, she was quite a bit classier than the SeaLepers' pile of rust (rebaptised Steve Irwin in a desperate attempt to get some sympathy on the back of a dead celebrity I guess).

          And the Calypso did not engage in acts of piracy.

          1. Grease Monkey Silver badge

            Re: Sail

            @ElReg!comments!Pierre The calypso was hardly a bulk carrier.

            Container ships are not suited to installations like the turbosail because the deck is piled high with containers meaning the sail(s) would need mounting high tending to force the ship to heel over unless it had a huge and impractical centre board. Not to mention the fact that it would make loading and unloading a bit difficult. Kites OTOH don't have the same problem with heeling. They don't require any additional structure above decks getting in the way of loading, they can mount to the sides of the hull or indeed the bow. The only difficulty is in deploying the kites.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Sails?

          Umm! How can you get to a remote area operating site in a kite?

          Kind of slow on a calm day!

      3. Oninoshiko

        Re: They almost laughed him out of the boardroom...

        Lifting 50 tonnes is great, the problem is dropping it off (this was addressed in the fine story). If you lose 50 tonnes you become vary buoyant, and have a hard time landing again. Either you vent off your vary expensive He, or you take on ballast. about the best ballast source would be a river, but if you have a river, that you can easily pull 50 tonnes of water out of, why don't you just ship by boat?

        There might be a few places where you need to take vary heavy things, have no better means of transport, and happen to have ballast at the location, but they are not common enough to fund a healthy industry.

        I'm also not confident in the demand for a slow passenger service. It sounds nice, but is there enough demand?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: They almost laughed him out of the boardroom...

          Most harbours needed continuous dredging until quite recently due to ships taking on rocks and scrap iron as ballast then dumping it at the dockside or just outside the ports

        2. Lasairfion
          Go

          Re: They almost laughed him out of the boardroom...

          People mentioned the ballast issue and how you need to be near a river. I am assuming that there is space for 50 tons of cargo, and that this cargo isn't water. Thus what replaces it doesn't have to be water.

          Back in the days of seafaring and sail, the coal ships would sail out from Newcastle, and come back filled with orange roof tiles (spanish style) from the latin colonies. These tiles were rejects from the clay-factories on the coasts. They were used to roof houses around the British coal ports, giving it a very Mediterranean feel. Any reject material in the area would suffice.

          Similarly when one wasn't travelling back empty, it was because you ensured that the port at which you landed had other people with other goods to transport back. Imagine if we could drop 50 tons of aid supplies or infrastructure/machinery in Africa, and then ship back 50 tons of fairtrade goods at a massively low cost (virtually free since it's essentially ballast) giving poor farmers and craftsmen a cheap entry to global distribution and marketing of their products. There might even be room for refrigeration units on board so we could ship back perishables. This could be a real answer to getting infrastructure easily in to poorer countries, and opening a way for them to trade themselves out of poverty

          Another thought is information. In the old days mailplanes and packetships would bring the news, letters, information etc. Imagine if we upgraded that to modern tech? Okay we can't give them broadband connectivity all the time, but the docks could have solar-powered PCs and servers linked to a local network for local schools and businesses. Ships could carry databanks and upload/download terabytes of data on arrival for distribution back and forth, and even provide wifi hotspots when docked.

          I'm excited.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: They almost laughed him out of the boardroom...

        The operating limits for this type of vehicle are in fact better than those of a helicopter, as it can be certified for full IFR (The Skyship was), which is rare for most helicopters due to their lack of stability or auto pilot.

        Regards

        Hybrid Pilot Services Ltd

    2. TRT Silver badge

      Re: They almost laughed him out of the boardroom...

      Come on, I know there are plenty of Thunderbirds fans lurking in El Reg's halls.

    3. Aqua Marina

      @ TRT Re: They almost laughed him out of the boardroom...

      Here have a thumbs up for the Thunderbirds quote. And boo to the 2 people who voted you down, clearly not fans.

      They should paint the airship green and stick a big yellow "2" on it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: @ TRT They almost laughed him out of the boardroom...

        "They should paint the airship green and stick a big yellow "2" on it."

        No, that's the Aeroscraft one that looks like T2. This one, well, it looks from the front end like it should be for sale in Ann Summers judging by the photos. I reckon they should paint it pink, with the front end purple.

        Not withstanding the "interesting" design I'd still like a go. The article mentions that the inagural passengers will include a couple of competition winners - commentards might want to mosey over the Airlander web site, because it is a straightforward prize draw.

        1. MJI Silver badge

          Re: @ TRT They almost laughed him out of the boardroom...

          I didn't get the quote originally but as soon as Thunderbirds was mentioned I remembered.

          And TB6 was a AFAIR a Tiger Moth

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Re: @ TRT They almost laughed him out of the boardroom...

            Yes, it was. "Thunderbird 6", the Tiger Moth, was able to land on the top of the Skyship 1 airship (one of Brains' inventions built by the New World Aircraft Corporation after they'd realised that his unorthodox approach to aircraft design actually had enormous merit) to rescue Lady P, Parker, Tin Tin and Alan.

    4. boltar Silver badge

      Re: They almost laughed him out of the boardroom...

      "I thought it would be a good idea, in this day and age of speed and... things like that, to build an... airship."

      Yeah , speed is all that matters. That would be why most of the worlds cargo goes by air.

      Oh, wait, whats this - 90% goes by ship? Noooo , can't be....

    5. cray74

      Re: They almost laughed him out of the boardroom...

      Airships have the potential to accomplish tasks helicopters and airplanes cannot. They can't fly on station for weeks, unlike airships, and while helicopters can serve as skycranes the potential cargo capacity of airships is much higher.

      This first (re)start airship isn't going to exploit the full capability of airship technology, especially since it depends on aerodynamic lift. But there's some interesting possibilities for cargo aircraft that can carry 50 or 100 tons into BFE where there are no roads, airports, or waterways, and then lower the payload into a rough field. The same capability would be handy for delivering over-size loads into urban areas, too.

  2. deshepherd

    Had an item about this on R4 Today program last week. The person reporting it tried to describe the shape and how and how it didn't look like an old style "zeppelin" airship - he then interviewed Bruce Dickinson and Bruce started off pointing out that the best way to describe the shape to "someone of my age is that its basically Thunderbird 2"!

    Nb discovered a few years ago that I was at school with Bruce Dickinson ... I studied hard and now work in electronics ... he got expelled so I assume he never achieved much!

    1. TWB

      'I studied hard and now work in electronics '

      Currys or Dixons?

      Only joking (in the nicest/friendliest possible way), I am sure you mean something far more serious and complex like IC design or similar- something I never mastered.....

      Upvote for you sir.

  3. Dangermouse 1

    Bruce Bruce

    "Bruce Dickinson - well known as a former Iron Maiden vocalist"

    And probably more well know as Iron Maiden's current vocalist, but he did take a break while Blaze Bayley was doing the duties, so both are true :)

    1. h4rm0ny

      Re: Bruce Bruce

      He also wrote the absolutely bonkers film Chemical Wedding. In which Simon Callow plays a re-incarnated Aleister Crowley teaching at Oxford, messing around with quantum physics and urinating on the front row of the students in his lecture theatre.

      1. Qwelak

        Re: Bruce Bruce

        He also wrote a rather dubious book by the name of :

        Lord Iffy Boatrace

        Iffy was the word

        http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1328187.The_Adventures_of_Lord_Iffy_Boatrace

  4. Captain TickTock
    Headmaster

    Vectored thrust...

    ...ought to be directed downwards to take off, no?

    1. Chris Miller

      Re: Vectored thrust...

      No, you want the thrust vector to be upwards. If the engines were jets, you might say they were directed downwards, but they're turbo-diesel props.

    2. Paul Kinsler
      Headmaster

      Re: Vectored thrust...

      Hmm ... surely all thrust is vectored? I mean, how could one make sense of something caller "scalar thrust" (or "bi-vector thrust", for that matter)

      /takes of geometric algebra hat and returns to coffee

      1. Grease Monkey Silver badge

        Re: Vectored thrust...

        "Hmm ... surely all thrust is vectored?"

        Well yes, but in most fixed wing aircraft the thrust vector is fixed. For pedants like you "variable vector" might make more sense than "vectored". But the rest of us understand it as it is.

  5. Alistair MacRae

    Question to someone sciencey.

    If you put a compressor in helium airship and compress some of the helium into a tank, will that drop the amount of lift generated?

    If so could you use that to control altitude on the airship?

    1. TWB

      Re: Question to someone sciencey.

      I believe the weight of such a system is heavier than the lift that the expanded Helium will lift - at least that is a what a gas balloonist once told me.

      1. TWB

        Re: Question to someone sciencey.

        Having said that I have wondered if you can squeeze the envelope somehow that you increase the density of the lifting gas and not have to carry heavy tanks to hold it highly compressed - maybe making an envelope that strong and light is difficult.

    2. DaLo

      Re: Question to someone sciencey.

      Page 4:

      ..." or the plan of compressing the ship's helium to the point where it becomes heavier than air - as the Aeroscraft "Pelican" ship is supposed to do."

      So apparently yes, but maybe unproven.

    3. h4rm0ny

      Re: Question to someone sciencey.

      >>"If you put a compressor in helium airship and compress some of the helium into a tank, will that drop the amount of lift generated?"

      Yes. Try this experiment - pick up a tank of liquid oxygen or helium. Is it heavy (more specifically is it heavier than an empty tank)? The answer is yes. Compress a gas and it reduces the lift, you would get.

      If you could fit a pump inside the air ship which compressed the helium, it would reduce lift.

      1. Grease Monkey Silver badge

        Re: Question to someone sciencey.

        "If you could fit a pump inside the air ship which compressed the helium, it would reduce lift."

        But the issue with all lighter than air craft has always been keeping the weight of the craft down to maximise payload. Yes I know it's true of heavier than air vehicles, but there are other solutions for those.

        In order to compress the gas to reduce lift you would need not only the compressor and it's power source, but a container to hold the gas under pressure. That container would be heavier than the envelope used to contain the gas at atmospheric pressure.

        Would the advantages of such a system offset the reduction in payload?

        1. h4rm0ny
          Joke

          Re: Question to someone sciencey.

          >>"That container would be heavier than the envelope used to contain the gas at atmospheric pressure."

          Like I wrote: if you install a pump to compress the helium, it will reduce lift. What part of what I posted was confusing? ;)

          But seriously, it depends on how light you can make the equipment and how big a volume it is offset against and how fast you need it to work. 80kg of equipment on a little balloon means it may never get off the ground. The same equipment on a massive airship might be fine. Similarly if you want pumps that can compress it in ten minutes, that might take a lot of equipment. If it starts on approach an hour before landing, that might take much less. Keep in mind an airship doesn't need to descend like a plane. Furthermore, keep in mind that the times you may want to descend fastest are when you're dropping off a load. In my example, passengers. That means less compression needed because you're already weighed down. It's when you're not loaded, i.e. you're picking up, that it will take longer to compress enough that you sink. At which point hopefully, due to the lack of impatient passengers, you can simply start earlier.

          1. graeme leggett

            Re: Question to someone sciencey.

            You could have the gas compressors at the landing site.

            Eg as part of the mooring mast structure on point to point trips:

            When the HAV arrives it connects up and the "excess" He is pumped off and stored until required again

            For a heavy lift into rough terrain at the end of poor roads

            The bulky item is airlifted in by the HAV. The compressor(s) goes to the landing site by truck. Once the HAV has landed, the compressor is hooked up and pumps down He into cylinders. Some of these could be loaded on the HAV as ballast, the rest go out with the truck.

            Of course the cost/energy costs might not be viable...

            1. Hairy Spod

              Re: Question to someone sciencey.

              For something that carries cargo measured in tonnes, I'm sure that there must be the potential to have something fairly hefty and/or a complex system for compressing and reusing the gas.

              Surley it wouldnt need to compress it back into a liquid form or anything extreeme?

              Perhaps come up with something that could dynamically alter the shape of the structure slightly from an efficient cylender shape to something more eleptical, just enough to keep the area of the envelope the same but reduce its overall volume to take the edge off of the bouyancy for loading and altitude control. You might be able to increase efficiency by doing that along side some of the other techniques that have been described.

          2. ElReg!comments!Pierre

            Re: Question to someone sciencey.

            > 80kg of equipment on a little balloon means it may never get off the ground. The same equipment on a massive airship might be fine.

            80 kg is for the pump, I suppose. To keep the compressed gas you'll need a very strong tank. High-pressure tanks category 300 weigh 60 kg and hold 300 cubic feet of the good stuff, which is just short of 8.5 cubic meters. Barely even noticeable on an airship scale. High pressure gas tanks won't get much benefits from scaling up: the 300 tank has a cf/kg of 5; a 200 helium cylinder weighs 48 kg which is a cf/kg of 4.1, while a 125 weighs 29 kg which is a cf/kg of 4.3. Do your math or ask Randall xkcd to do a "what if" on it; in any case, I'd bet at least _some_ money on the weight of the tanks more than negating the benefits.

            1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

              Re: Question to someone sciencey.

              Who said anything about high pressure tanks? You only need to compress it enough to reduce buoyancy, which wouldn't take much pressure at all.

              1. armster

                Re: Question to someone sciencey.

                It is always better to compress air to take on as extra ballast than to compress your lifting Helium. Since the COSH apparatus is shrouded in much mystery I am not convinced that this is not exactly what it does.

                As far as usefulness goes: Any tracking outfit will have 50 tons of water available wherever they operate, and they might benefit greatly from getting 50tons of equipment delivered in exchange.

              2. ElReg!comments!Pierre

                Re: Question to someone sciencey.

                > Who said anything about high pressure tanks? You only need to compress it enough to reduce buoyancy, which wouldn't take much pressure at all.

                Ahem. The laws of physics say otherwise.

            2. Duffy Moon

              Re: Question to someone sciencey.

              Graphene tanks will do the job nicely.

    4. John Savard Silver badge

      Re: Question to someone sciencey.

      Simpler would be to use a balloon with hydrogen that can be easily generated and cheaply disposed of to provide the marginal extra lift required to allow the ship to land. But flammability is a concern as the Hindenburg demonstrated - could a small balloon with the hydrogen be isolated from everything else, as opposed to the big helium balloon, so as to reduce this to tolerable levels?

  6. FartingHippo
    Black Helicopters

    Ukraine

    Putin's actions in Ukraine could well see a sharp reversal in US military spending. It's just the thing the hawks have been waiting for.

    So, the LEMV may be resuscitated yet. I can't see it making it as a commercial offering without a military option.- too "different" to shift units to a world of conservative buyers without the USA guaranteeing spares and support for the next 30 years.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ukraine

      "Putin's actions in Ukraine could well see a sharp reversal in US military spending. It's just the thing the hawks have been waiting for."

      But I can't see airships being the way to project your military force. Even allowing that before a war breaks out there's no problem with anti-aircraft weaponry, the speed and payload balance is still too limited. A C17 can carry an M1 tank or equivalent at five times the cruising speed of the Airlander and has rough field capabilities. Even at 50 tonnes payload the Airlander wouldn't be able to carry an M1 tank, and it would take around ten hours from (say) Germany to Ukraine, or fifteen from the UK.

      You'd need a vast fleet of AIrlanders and plenty of notice to move stuff any worthwhile volume of men or materials, and to be confident that the prospective enemy wouldn't attack your rather vulnerable airships pre-emptively.

      1. Lasairfion
        Happy

        Re: Ukraine

        Sky Captain World of Tomorrow anyone?

        It's a bit like aircraft carriers - you load them up with stuff that is faster (i.e. war-planes) that can chase away the incoming threats, and you have big anti-aircraft/anti-missile defences on them. And Angelina Jolie with an eyepatch: oh yes.

    2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Ukraine

      So, the LEMV may be resuscitated yet

      It does give a whole new meaning to "the charge of the Light Brigade"

  7. Frankee Llonnygog

    How to load an airship with celebrities

    Dangling underneath by ropes should suffice. Where on the celebrity to tie the rope around? Text now to vote for ankle, neck, etc

    1. MJI Silver badge

      Re: How to load an airship with celebrities

      Depends on which ones.

      If they are Bruces mates, in the cabin would be suitable.

      1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
        Big Brother

        Re: How to load an airship with celebrities

        My first thought on reading that was maybe they've just found the new Big Brother house?

        1. Ben Bonsall

          Re: How to load an airship with celebrities

          My first thought on reading that was maybe they've just found the new Big Brother house?

          Eviction takes on a whole new and far more interesting meaning...

          1. ian 22
            Meh

            May I be the first...

            ...to welcome our hybrid overlordships.

    2. Crisp

      Re: How to load an airship with celebrities

      That's a reality TV show I'd watch.

  8. MJI Silver badge

    Ed Force 2

    Food for thought.

  9. MJI Silver badge

    Run to the hills

    Is currently stuck in my mnd, at least it is a decent song.

  10. Zog_but_not_the_first
    Boffin

    At last!

    Thunderbird Two given form. Now where's my flying car?

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: At last!

      More like the Skyship 1.

  11. Chris G Silver badge

    It's a balloon!

    Interesting to see this is not a dirigible, so not much like a Zeppelin at all.

    IIRC British Airships started in the sixties and had a few design that had potential but the company didn't last in spite of interest from the military and industry.

    I hope this one gets somewhere.

    As an aside, my dad who was a keen cyclist before the war; had a bicycle made from the tubing that was part of the spares supply for the R101 framework, I think it was stainless steel but not too sure about that.

    1. Grease Monkey Silver badge

      I Don't think that means what you think it means...

      "Interesting to see this is not a dirigible,"

      Of course it's a dirigible. It wouldn't be of any use were it not dirigible.

      What do you think dirigible means?

      1. Grease Monkey Silver badge

        Re: I Don't think that means what you think it means...

        Hey a downvote does that mean the OP has downvoted my post rather than look up the word dirigible in a dictionary or does it mean there are two people out there who share the same incorrect definition of the word dirigible.

        Honestly I really want to know what these people think dirigible means. I'm fascinated by the possibilities.

        1. Chris G Silver badge

          Re: I Don't think that means what you think it means...

          " The massive envelope maintains its shape by internal gas pressure, blimp-style, and is intended to generate extra dynamic lift over and above that from its helium filling as the ship flies along."

          Without having read a dictionary definition of dirigible but having been taught (possibly before you were born) that a dirigible as opposed to a balloon or blimp has a framework to maintain it's envelope shape whereas a balloon or blimp or this airship uses the gas pressure to maintain it's envelope shape, a deliberate design feature to increase it's potential lifting ability.

          Or maybe I read it wrong!

          I don't bother down voting people who disagree with me, I can be petty, overbearing , arrogant or violent but I try hard not to be childish.

          As parts of the basic structure have a permanent shape but the shape of envelope above is determined by gas pressure perhaps it is a semi-dirigible?

          1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

            Re: I Don't think that means what you think it means...

            "dirigible (dɪˈrɪdʒɪbəl)

            adj

            1. able to be steered or directed

            n

            2. (Aeronautics) another name for airship"

            A semi-dirigble would therefore be an airship that is not-quite-steerable or maybe steerable only to the left and not to the right or maybe only to the right and not to the left...

            Now, as to the structure or lack thereof, the word would be "rigid" (or "non-rigid" or "semi-rigid" as may be the case)..

            1. Grease Monkey Silver badge

              Re: I Don't think that means what you think it means...

              @Chris G what you were taught was wrong, which only goes to show that you shouldn't blindly believe everything you are told. I would also suggest that you now question everything else you were taught by the person who taught you that.

              Dirigible has always meant capable of being directed since before their were airships.

              Oh and yes you are arrogant. Why do you assume you are so much older than I?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's a balloon!

      R101 did have a stainless steel structure. Made in Norwich.

      http://www.flightglobal.com/pdfarchive/view/1928/1928%20-%201106.html

  12. Phil W

    Not interested unless....

    ....these dirigibles are semi sentient and can travel between alternate realities.

    1. h4rm0ny

      Re: Not interested unless....

      You are... hard to please.

    2. graeme leggett

      Re: Not interested unless....

      what about the " silent gas dirigibles of the Hoothi " ?

    3. Phil W

      Re: Not interested unless....

      The model name should also be named after a classic author.

      1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

        Re: Not interested unless....

        And powered by the reincarnation of a mongolian bicycle repair man named after a time monk.

        1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson
          Coat

          Re: Not interested unless....

          or Tibetan bicycle repair man for that matter

          "Bicycle Repair Man? But HOW???"

          Sorry, couldn't resist. Mine is the one with "The Long War" book and the Monty Python DVD in the pockets

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Not interested unless....

            I know its late and you will never read this but Lobsang was a MOTORcycle repair man.

  13. Grease Monkey Silver badge

    "It's true, vessels along Airlander lines are quieter than jets when you're standing next to them. But when you're standing on the ground, ducted props driven by Centurion V8s at a few thousand feet wouldn't be as quiet as a cargo jet at stratospheric cruising altitude."

    Ah, but the noise nuisance from jets isn't caused when they are flying at stratospheric altitudes, but at low levels particularly when taking off and flying. So if noise nuisance were the only criteria (and it isn't) Airlander would have the jet beaten.

    For me the biggest issue for the airship is not to be measured in terms of its impact on the environment, but in the environment's impact on the airship. Airlander like all blimps is affected by wind to a much greater degree than heavier than air jets. Reliability of service would be much lower than a jet, so it's markets would be restricted to those where such matters were not particularly important.

  14. Panicnow

    Some points about using balloons

    USE

    Getting anything heavy around the third world is a nightmare. THis is where the sweet spot is IMHO i.e. getting equipment to third world minerals.

    Also getting the minerals out is a nightmare too. Taking High value low wieght minerals such as Tantalum, Gemstones...

    VARIABLE BOUYANCY

    Steam has an attomic weight of 18 so converting water to steam would add bouyancy nicely, and its much lighter to keep it warm, rather than holding helium at pressure.

    KEEP TETHERED

    Why not keep the thing tethered to the ground and just use it to lower the axle weight. I love the concept of the Balloon Assisted Donkey (BAD) pulling a tonne along some mountian track. (But not on a windiy day!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Some points about using balloons

      "THis is where the sweet spot is IMHO i.e. getting equipment to third world minerals."

      I think there's a fundamental problem that serious mining equipment is much heavier than even prospective payloads.

      1. jubtastic1

        Re: Some points about using balloons

        Regarding ballast, Can't they just take some extra dirt or rocks along with the precious stuff? dirt and rocks are pretty easy to find just about everywhere, sand seems to work fine for balloons after all.

    2. Grease Monkey Silver badge

      Steam?

      I assume this is some sort of elaborate joke that is far too subtle for me.

      You think keeping steam hot (not warm) takes less weight than storing helium?

      For a start you don't have to keep the helium under pressure. It's perfectly happy at atmospheric pressure. The only pressure/volume issue might be at low altitude (ie taking off and landing) which is covered in the article. Of course the lower the cruising altitude the less the issue.

      As for keeping steam hot, not only do you need the means and fuel to heat the contents of the envelope hot, but there would be the added weight of insulating the envelope. Without that steam contacting the envelope would condense. Unless of course you were going to heat the entire envelope skin to over 100 degrees centigrade, which would probably be even heavier than insulation.

      Go on build us a model that could lift itself let alone carry a decent payload.

    3. nanchatte
      Coat

      Re: Some points about using balloons

      >I love the concept of the Balloon Assisted Donkey (BAD) pulling a tonne along some mountian track.

      Me, too! that would be bad ass!

  15. RonWheeler

    Nostalgia trip

    All this talk of dirigibles largely appeals to the sci-fi fan's love of steampunk stuff. Not so sure these things are so appealing when we take our polished brass rose-tinted monocles off.

    1. ElReg!comments!Pierre

      Re: Nostalgia trip

      The "legendary" train tours are doing quite well, as do luxury cruise boats. There's at least a hope for luxury airships.

  16. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    Business case (warning: contains political incorrectness)

    Load it up with aid, fly to [insert an African developing nation name here], plonk the aid, take a load of asylum seekers as ballast, fly back. Charitable donations pay for the kerosene on the way out, traffickers' fees - on the return leg...

    Added benefit - most of the asylum seekers get sent back to their motherland on BA flights, thus supporting the flag carrier and also making sure that the ballast pool never runs out at the destination...

    Apologies, I have an acute bout of cynicismitis this morning.

  17. WibbleMe

    Yes but would these be real celebrities or just those with hot air? lol

    1. hamcheeseandonion
      Coat

      That could solve the buoyancy issue you know?

      One Brandreth or Fry as self-loading cargo

      Supply said cargo with a mirror and some millet

      They will gitter like budgies for hours on end, thus

      Supplying all the hot air one could ever need, but....

      getting them to stop may be a problem, and you could be faced with a Flying Dutchman/Masque of the Red Death scenario, where they would roam the skies for eternity, listening to utter drivel.

      On second thoughts......icon says it all.

  18. Shonko Kid
    Boffin

    That's a lot of kerosene

    Given the large surface area, the fact that these will generally operate above the cloud ceiling, and solar panels can now be made with lightweight plastic substrates, has anyone looked at making these things solar, or at least hybrid?

    I mean, sure it'll add to the cost, but in for a penny...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: That's a lot of kerosene

      "I mean, sure it'll add to the cost, but in for a penny..."

      On the contrary, although the power sums for using solar power look good due to the large surface area, the last thing you want to do is pioneer new power trains and control gear when you're already on the cutting edge of airship design. As a commercial venture you can't afford delays caused by building in too much unproven tech, and I'd guess that's why they are using diesel engines. When the airframe design is proven, you've found a market and sold a few (and there's more money), that's when you look at PV coatings, high efficiency electric motors, hybrid power control systems.

  19. MacroRodent Silver badge

    Hybrid helium - hydrogen?

    To solve the problem of too much lift after unloading without wasting expensive helium, why not have hydrogen-filled ballonets inside the helium balloons and vent gas from those instead? Hydrogen does not react with helium, so there is no risk of explosion.

    1. ElReg!comments!Pierre

      Re: Hybrid helium - hydrogen?

      Hydrogen is very troublesome in several ways:

      -its production is very "carbon-intensive", as they say; whether it's a big problem depends on your views, but it would negate much of the low-carbon pitch on which the airship program relies

      -it's very flammable; although its confinement inside a big baloon or unreactive helium would help in-flight, the proble reappears when you vent it off... or when you refill the tanks, for that matter.

      -it's very difficult to store efficiently -not to mention safely- for a long period of time, especially in the kind of volumes needed for an airship.

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Hybrid helium - hydrogen?

        Could power the engines for the return trip...

      2. MacroRodent Silver badge

        Re: Hybrid helium - hydrogen?

        Carbon intensive? Are you serious? Hydrogen is cheap as water compared to helium, which really is a scarce resource and can only be obtained by cryogenically distilling large amounts of natural gas from some wells, which is at least as carbon-intensive.

        Hydrogen is widely used in industry, so ways to store and manage it are well known.

        The Germans ran completely hydrogen-filled airships for decades before serious problems, using materials and technology way inferior to what are available now.

        1. Grease Monkey Silver badge

          Re: Hybrid helium - hydrogen?

          Hot air? As any balloonist will tell you it takes a of fuel to keep a normal sized envelope full of air hot. Look at the size of that envelope. How much exhaust do you think those little diesels will produce. Not forgetting of course that you would have to filter out all the heavy crap from the exhaust, noticed how diesel exhaust gases don't rise into the air very quickly? Much heavier than helium.

    2. The elephant in the room

      Re: Hybrid helium - hydrogen?

      How about helium-hot air, using the engine exhaust?

  20. Peter 39

    negotiation

    "After the US Army cancellation, HAV negotiated successfully to buy the vessel."

    Typical deal for a cancellation by the Government is that you can buy it for 10%.

    No - not 10% discount. You pay only 10%. Sweeeeet.

    1. graeme leggett

      Re: negotiation

      News reports suggest they were the only ones to even offer to buy the HAV off the US Army

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    passengers

    No use for passengers you say? That's not very visionary!

    There's plenty of places that take a very long time to get to on a train ... eg. Cornwall or West Wales

    You could fly the thing in a circular route but don't land it ....use light aircraft (perhaps electric powered if you trying to be "green" about it) to hop up/down which can dock on the underside.

    These planes can also deliver fuel for it so it can both stay up for longer and carry more.

    As they could go closer to the city, being smaller then it could reduce travel time overall, even if it doesn't go all that fast.

  22. jai

    No ticket!

    Celebrities? On an airship?

    Don't forget your ticket, otherwise Harrison Ford will dump you out the window!!!

  23. ElReg!comments!Pierre

    About noise

    > vessels along Airlander lines are quieter than jets when you're standing next to them. But when you're standing on the ground, ducted props driven by Centurion V8s at a few thousand feet wouldn't be as quiet as a cargo jet at stratospheric cruising altitude.

    That's all too true. However, they are trying to sell it *now*. And right now, what is generating a lot of ill-will around airport is the noise at takeoff and landing. For that, blimps are a good solution. In the future, if they generalise (ahem), the constant buzzing overhead may become a problem (it certainly became somewhat annoying a while back, when ultralights were all the rage; especially as some of the less respectfull gnat pilots were flying so low that you could almost count their nosehair).

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Helium Shortage

    Helium is not just expensive but running out. Why are people developing this type of transport when more vital scientific and medical uses for the gas are already at risk?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Helium Shortage

      Some analytical procedures are moving away from Helium. The increases in price have given impetus to using other gases eg hydrogen.

      Personally I'm stuck with the price hikes as our GC/MS won't do the job with another gas as the carrier.

  25. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    Gotta tell you, if the ballasting issue could be figured out it would be a spiffy alternative to the Bloody Long Island Rail Road as a means to move people from their homes forty miles or so to NYC.

    Advantages of dirigible over BLIRR:

    Goes faster (even if not moving).

    No mad rocking from side to side a-la Seaview in a sub vs monster scenario. Who bought these new trains anyway?

    Not subject to stupid avoidable delays due to "the wrong sorts of leaves on tracks" or the thirty five plus year old "tunnels only signaled in one direction (and it's the wrong direction)" idiocies.

    Don't have to listen to "famous" people who never ride the BLIRR telling me how to ride the BLIRR ("Don't fall on the tracks")

    Don't have to listen to moronic list of stations that the next train would have stopped at if in fact the train in question had not been cancelled being read over the P.A. (instead of useful information like when the next train might actually put in an appearance).

    Don't have to deal with sub-human levels of intelligence of BLIRR management bring to the table at every "challenge".

    Finally: Would actually be able to use an alternative form of transport as suggested by spokesdrones every f***ing time the BLIRR breaks down marooning me in NYC - and as a bonus, never have to go back to the trains afterwards.

    1. ammabamma
      Trollface

      Re: Bah!

      > Not subject to stupid avoidable delays due to "the wrong sorts of leaves on tracks" or the thirty five plus year old "tunnels only signaled in one direction (and it's the wrong direction)" idiocies.

      Never fear.

      Once daily scheduled flights by the BLID (Bloody Long Island Dirigible) become a reality, management will have a crack team of marketroids standing by to update their excuses to reflect the new reality.

      Now we'll have delays caused by "the wrong kind of cloud", "cross-winds blowing in the wrong direction", "possible wake turbulence from a departing flight from the airport".

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Have you ever been on a boat?

    I only ask because taking a boat- especially a small one- out to an oil rig or other platform in the middle of the north sea (or various other ones) is pretty unpleasant. If nothing else, the floor is never where you left it last time you lifted your foot.

    Being able to take 50tonne loads out in relative stability would be excellent. That's enough to drop off some work-class ROV systems in one go- pick up from a shoreside base, fly to the rig, drop off the new one, pick up the old one, return it to base for repair. Not the most rapid of responses, sure, but quicker and cheaper than doing it by boat. Hell, launch the ROV from the airship- you even get rid of the requirement for heave compensation on the LARS winch since it'll hold more or less steady.

    And for construction, being able to lift 50 tonnes to 6000ft- and hold it there for ages- would be incredibly useful. That's 50 tonnes of building materials lifted anywhere up to a mile above sealevel. Expect the first mile-high building somewhere in coastal Saudi announced shortly after the first Airship floats off the line!

  27. Passing Through

    Helium?

    I'm pretty sure I read somewhere that Helium is a scarce and finite resource, that has unique and vauable properties.

    That being so, it's probably not a good idea to use it up on an industrial scale.

    Of course it's also difficult to store so maybe it'll just disappear anyway if we don't use it.

    1. UnwittingAccomplice

      Re: Helium?

      http://www.dotmed.com/news/story/22039/

      And has started to be protected in some legislations...

  28. AndyMc

    There's a market

    The cruise industry is a multi-billion industry at the moment and getting bigger each year. A cruise "liner" that can take you inland for a safari, as well as the usual stops, will be very popular.

    It won't be long before P&O or Disney or Carnival decide that their next $500 million cruise liner will be an air ship as they need to get the next step up on their competition. And with that kind of money in the game, things will happen quickly.

    And I'm okay with that :)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: There's a market

      "A cruise "liner" that can take you inland for a safari, as well as the usual stops, will be very popular."

      I think you'll find the maths doesn't work except for the incredibly rich. Capital cost per passenger looks to be about twice that of a fully equipped cruise ship (with none of the facilities), operating costs will be higher, and the relatively modest number of passengers means that crew to passenger ratios will be unfavourable. If you look at the sort of passengers who used the old airships you'll get a feel for the fact that this was transport for the 0.1%, and I suspect that if it ever returns it will be the same segment of society who use it.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "The ship is 91m long, 34m wide and 26m high - colossal"

    Sez here that LZ 129 was 245m long, and 41m in diameter, and had a cargo capacity of 22,000lbs - with 90 people aboard.

    I mean, don't get me wrong, this thing is cool, but calling an airship 'colossal' when the whole thing could get packed up in the boot of something designed almost a century ago seems a bit off-base...

  30. bigdish

    Has anyone mentioned....

    ...Eccentrica Gallumbits yet?

    She was the first thing I thought of when I saw the triple-bumped front profile of the HAV...which probably says something telling about my maturity and mental wellbeing....

  31. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Happy

    As a matter of interest...

    Any other commentards been to Cardington? Those hangars are almost unbelieveable. You can see them for miles.

  32. Wiltshire
    Holmes

    Surely this is absolutely 100% perfect for the next Bond film?

    Q: Pay attention Bond, and do try to bring it back in once piece this time.

    Or Blofeld nicks it, to do some darstadly deed, and the chase is on.

  33. Teslahed

    Vectored thrust

    Just one minor point; you vector thrust downwards if you want to go upwards (equal and opposite reaction and all that) but you may tilt your motors upwards to achieve this if your propellers are in tractor configuration rather than pusher.

    1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

      Re: Vectored thrust

      Actually, if you want to go upward you need the thrust vector to point up. To achieve that you would normally point a jet engine's exhaust down...

  34. Florida1920
    Thumb Down

    Which one's Pink?

    If they had any class they'd have made it look like a pig.

  35. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
    Coat

    I hope the British Government is giving its full support, where else could they get enough hot air?

    OK, I'm going...

  36. UnwittingAccomplice

    Hoverbarge anyone?

    So it'll be competing with a proven working(ish) product. Except the the whole hoverbarge is the work platform that it'll be supplying, currently supplied by large hovercraft in arctic and swampy areas. But hang on , the hoverbarges have payloads in the kilotonne range. ***** Smells vanity project, looks away.

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