A variation on the old blimp as new solution to jets? Photo by Wire Lizard via Flickr
Part of the blimp rebirth movement, a cigar-shaped airship is under development at a French mechanics institute. Dubbed the Aerolabe, the vessel is designed by painter and sculptor Gaspard Schlumberger, who seeks to devise a green alternative to air transport. It's clean, pollution-free, and solar-powered. The latest in a series of zeppelin resurrections, is this a new and improved version of the old dirigible or just another balloon boy dream? One interesting feature of this solar-powered balloon includes wings to assist with flying. The French designer and his backers have high hopes for the Aerolabe. "This is really leading the way for the dirigibles of tomorrow. With zero carbon emissions, it's the transport of the future. So the project aims to bring an industrialized field up to date," Luc Chanteloup of Le Mans Institute of the History of Science and Technology told the Agence France-Presse (AFP) which released a video of the Aerolabe model in motion.
Up for your own personal blimp? Photo by Erik Charlton via Flickr
The institute's director estimates that just over three and a half million euros are needed to turn this design into a reality with the goal of sailing over the Atlantic. "We need engines which consume much less than classical engines," explains the designer, who thinks the prototype will only take a few weeks to manufacture. "We need to know if the craft can go fast enough to fight against the winds." The partners in the project expect the Aerolabe's small-scale flight can be repeated in full-scale form.
Goodyear aside, inventors have created pedal-powered conveyances, a human-powered Aeolus, Aeroscrafts, and the 200 mph Turtle in a race for an airplane substitute. With alternatives to explosive hydrogen possible to keep these afloat, if a zeppelin can offer a zero-carbon, energy-efficient and safe flight, what's holding up production?