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Another Attempt at Airships

Posted March 05, 2014 8:41 AM by HUSH
Pathfinder Tags: air travel airships blimp Concept

Meet Bruce Dickinson: musician, pilot, erotic novelist, radio and TV personality, and entrepreneur. In all likelihood this is not the Bruce Dickinson with which you are most familiar (More cowbell!). Let's be honest, unless you are a hair metal fan, are British, or know some guy named "Bones," you probably don't about know this version of Bruce Dickinson.

So why is he relevant to us on CR4? Well first, he's an excellent businessman who makes calculated investments and often identifies a market need. He's founded a fencing company, licensed odd Iron Maiden merchandise, and early on realized the appetite for reality-based programming. In 2009, the magazine Intelligent Life emphasized his role as a modern polymath.

And second, his newest business venture has breathed new life into a concept that was considered stale before it even got off the ground: hybrid airships. These types of airships combine the static lift of lighter-than-air vehicles with wings, engines, and other aerodynamic components. The result is a craft which doesn't need power to stay aloft, but instead uses fuel for locomotion and maneuvering. While the fuel efficiency compared to a plane is considerable, its speed--or rather lack thereof--is a significant drawback. Back in November of 2012, I wrote, "By taking a vehicle's power and dividing it by [payload] weight and speed you get a comparable value. Simply put, airships aren't much faster than road transport and are very much slower than a plane. Simple zeppelins and blimps are somewhat more fuel efficient than planes, but airship hybrids do not have a significant fuel advantage."

Well Bruce Dickinson seems intent on proving myself and many others wrong, because he contributed $4.2 million to Hybrid Air Vehicles Ltd., a U.K.-based designer whose hybrid airship LEMV was not picked up for production by the U.S. Department of Defense. After they had drained $300 million on the prototype, the U.S. Army determined that they didn't have a foreseeable need for an intelligence gathering and heavy-haul blimp.

The LEMV was bought back by HAV for $300,000 and the world's largest aircraft was reassembled at a blimp hangar in Cardington, Bedfordshire. Private testing on the LEMV, now dubbed Airlander, will begin at the end of 2014. HAV envisions a commercial market where Airlanders can haul 20, 50, or even 200 tons of cargo into remote areas that have no highways or airfields. The marketplace for a security and intelligence airship hasn't completely closed either, as security blimps dotted the skies over Sochi, Russia, during last month's Winter Olympics. HAV also believes it could be utilized when responding to international disasters.

HAV is planning a media circus for 2016 in hopes of attracting prospective customers. First, a contest is being held to award two seats on Airlander's maiden passenger flight which is promised to include celebrities and will of course be flown by Bruce Dickinson-he's a licensed pilot and occasionally flies his band on their plane. Then Dickinson will have the honor of flying Airlander around the worst twice, without landing, to show off the true capabilities of his hybrid airship.

"It's a game changer, in terms of things we can have in the air and things we can do," Dickinson says. "We'll fly over the Amazon at 20 feet, over some of the world's greatest cities and stream the whole thing on the internet."

Of course, it takes a little more than a business-savvy rock legend to smash the proverbial champagne across the bow. Fortunately, Airlander has received some key support it never received in North America. HAV will tap into some of the $3.35 billion the U.K. government has ponied up for research into greener aviation. Airlander is also scalable, which means that a variety of hybrid airships could be conceived and used for many applications. Smaller versions can take passengers on tours of African plains, while others host pool parties for billionaires.

It remains to be seen just how much of a comeback airships can make, but it seems like the odds for hybrid airships have improved. Bruce Dickinson has a history of transforming the projects he works on, and he is already calling Airlander a success, but it is far too early to do so. Some industry experts believe that a solar-powered airship, such as the Nephelios pictured at right, is the final evolution of the airship design, in which case the Airlander may fly, but it will never shine.

Resources

Janes 360 - Hybrid Air Vehicles expects UK MoD trials in 2015

IBT - 7 Reasons Airlander...

HAV Ltd. - Official Site

Rest Assured Zine - Iron Maiden's Bruce Dickinson...


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#1

Re: Another Attempt at Airships

03/05/2014 9:07 AM

Bruce Dickinson: musician, pilot, erotic novelist, radio and TV personality, and entrepreneur.

a SNL skit with Dan Aykroyd comes to mind….

I don't know if it was the erotic novelist part, but Bruce Dickerson reminds me of .......... Fred Garvin - Male Prostitute

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#2

Re: Another Attempt at Airships

03/05/2014 10:28 PM

Where is the propulsion nozzle on that rear-end view of a blimp? A good fartist's rendering wouldn't have left that out.

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#3
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Re: Another Attempt at Airships

03/05/2014 10:30 PM

Baby Got Back

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#4

Re: Another Attempt at Airships

03/06/2014 1:43 PM

Something about this makes me want to sing that classic song, by Sir Mix-A-Lot.....I like BIG BUTTS, I can not lie, no otha bruthas can deny.........

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#5

Re: Another Attempt at Airships

03/06/2014 5:37 PM

Does it use Helium? Because that's becoming scarce (google "helium shortage").

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In reply to #5

Re: Another Attempt at Airships

03/06/2014 5:49 PM

For safety, I'd have to say yes.

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#7

Re: Another Attempt at Airships

03/11/2014 10:20 AM

Once, 40 years ago, considered this might be a route for exporting copper from mid Africa, considering all the bars that were deposited off road by overturned lorries en-route to the coast. However, even now the cost would have been prohibitive, I would guess. They eventually built a railroad, or rather the Chinese did, which still works after a fashion.

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