News Environment Blimp Promises Low-Carbon Air Traveling The helium-filled Airlander 10 aims to provide virtually carbon-free inter-city traveling. By Eduardo Garcia Writer Columbia University Garcia is an environmental writer and editor based in New York. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, Slate, Scientific American, and others. our editorial process Twitter Twitter Eduardo Garcia Published June 2, 2021 10:00AM EDT Fact checked by Haley Mast Fact checker Harvard University Extension School Haley Mast is a writer, fact checker, and conservationist with a certification in sustainability. Our Fact-Checking Process Article fact-checked on Jun 03, 2021 Haley Mast Hybrid Air Vehicles Share Twitter Pinterest Email News Environment Business & Policy Science Animals Home & Design Current Events Treehugger Voices A British company plans to start flying a 100-seat airship by 2025, offering passengers sustainable inter-city transportation and some amazing views. Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV) envisions covering routes 200 to 300 miles away, such as Barcelona-Mallorca, Liverpool-Belfast, and Seattle-Vancouver with the Airlander 10, a hybrid-electric blimp that will feature a swanky cabin fitted with floor-to-ceiling windows. Air traveling has a huge carbon footprint. Although it only accounts for about 2.5% of total greenhouse gas emissions, for those who often hop onto passenger jets, flying is likely the biggest contributor to their personal carbon footprint. But HAV says the helium-filled Airlander will emit 90% less carbon dioxide per passenger than a commercial jet. The startup envisions launching a fully electric version of the aircraft by 2030 that will have zero emissions. “This isn’t a luxury product, it’s a practical solution to challenges posed by the climate crisis,” HAV CEO Tom Grundy told The Guardian. The Airlander is more energy-efficient than passenger jets because the helium inside its hull gives it a buoyant lift, reducing the amount of fuel required to keep the aircraft airborne. Helium is not flammable, unlike the hydrogen that filled historic airships like the Hindenburg, which was destroyed in a fiery crash in 1937. The blimps of the early 20th Century could not fly in rough weather conditions, but according to HAV, the Airlander “will be able to withstand lightning, icing, and operate in most weathers.” It is designed to remain airborne for up to five days, cover a distance of 4,000 nautical miles, reach an altitude of 20,000 feet, and travel at a top speed of 70 knots — the equivalent of approximately 80 mph. Sustainable Traveling According to HAV, the Airlander will offer sustainable inter-city traveling when compared to other forms of transportation that either emit huge amounts of CO2, like short-haul flights or take a long time, like ferries. Take for instance the trip between the Spanish city of Barcelona and the island of Mallorca, a popular tourist destination. According to HAV’s calculations, the Airlander will be able to fly between the cities in 4 hours and 32 minutes, about half an hour more than what it would take to travel by airplane when the trip to and from the airport, as well as check-in and boarding time, are taken into account. It’s not clear exactly where the Airlander would land, but HAV says the airship “can take off and land on virtually any flat surface, including water.” The company envisions building landing sites near city centers because, unlike passenger planes, the Airlander will not need a long runway for take-off and landing. As well as low-carbon traveling, HAV says the Airlander will offer passengers a unique traveling experience when compared to airplanes, which the company describes as “metal tubes with tiny windows.” Like all commercial aircraft, the Airlander will need to receive certification from regulators before it starts transporting passengers, and is not clear when that would happen. HAV carried out a successful test flight earlier this year but a prototype crash-landed during another test flight in 2019. HAV says it has signed letters of intent to produce ten blimps for organizations in the tourism and clean technology sectors. Eventually, the company envisions building 12 Airlanders per year and hopes to sell over 250 over the next two decades. The Airlander could potentially be used for surveillance operations and to transport cargo, as well as for “luxury eco-travel,” since its large windows will provide passengers with a unique viewpoint from which to enjoy stunning landscapes. On top of that, the aircraft’s engines will produce very little noise, and HAV says that turbulence won’t be an issue because the Airlander is designed to fly smoothly. Swedish travel firm OceanSky has ordered an Airlander that will feature a customized luxury cabin from which passengers will enjoy “majestic” views of the North Pole. OceanSky describes the future trips as “something that amounts to more than a flying 5-star hotel and more than a superyacht of the sky.” View Article Sources Ritchie, Hannah. "Climate change and flying: what share of global CO2 emissions come from aviation?" Our World in Data, 2020.