Q: What drives the use of airships in modern industries?
A: An increasing number of organizations have begun to explore the use of airships for various roles in today’s society. Airships are used in the homeland security, military, environmental research, and commercial industries for several applications ranging from border patrolling, law enforcement, and coast guarding to weather forecasting, communication, and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. The global market for airships is primarily fueled by the high competitive and low operational cost advantages presented by airship systems over aerostat surveillance aircraft.
Q: What stands in the way of the large scale adoption of airships?
A: According to the Airship Association in England, airships or lighter-than-air vehicles (LTAV) actually have the ability to provide cost-effective and viable aerospace platforms for sever applications that are presently undertaken by a host of conventional transport systems. In fact, the rising concern shown by organizations, governments, and individuals over the rapid consumption of natural resources has rendered airships a leading solution to reduce both the financial operating cost and energy cost of some of the world’s transport requirements. The challenge, however, is overcoming the negative public perception surrounding airships. The USS Akron disaster of 1931 and the Hindenburg disaster of 1937 may have been the worst airship disasters known to mankind, but they were not the only ones.
Apart from this, the airship and lighter than air vehicle market has never really received sufficient investment to establish itself as a viable industry. These limitations impede the adoption of airships in several industries.
Q: What is the most significant development in the global airships market in recent times?
A: In March this year, UK-based international airship company Straightline Aviation signed a letter of intent to buy 12 of Lockheed Martin’s hybrid airships designed by the Skunk Works division of the American defense, aerospace, and security technologies company. This US$480 mn deal has been termed by many as a watershed moment for the airship market; an industry that has been struggling to thrive over the past decades. These modern hybrid airships rely on helium, which eliminates the risk of explosion. The initial lot will be used to transport 23 tons of cargo for fossil fuel exploration in remote areas with no road access. The airships are environment friendly and energy efficient and can drastically minimize the impact on the local environment.
This development has been supported by several leading players in the airship market. For instance, California-based Worldwide Aeros Corp., stated that this contract is just an indication of the valuable opportunities that lie ahead for lighter-than-air vehicles market and the global aviation and logistics industries.