People have talked about building futuristic airships for zero emissions cargo shipping for a long time, but most of these green blimps remain on the drawing board. One company, SolarShip, has taken the steps to bring its vision of a green shipping future to life by conducting the initial test flights for its solar helium plane. The prototype blends the concepts of airships and airplanes by placing a blimp lined with solar panels over an airplane cockpit and landing gear, and using solar power to propel the plane into the air. SolarShip plans to build three sizes of this ship: the small Caracal, the mid-size Chui, and the 30-tonne cargo hauler Nanuq. It appears to be the mid-sized Chui in the test flight video below.
SolarShip founder Jay Godsall says the target market for his green airships is any industry with logistical headaches: relief organizations shipping medical supplies to African countries with no roads, mining companies trying to open up the north that are faced with melting ice roads, or aid groups trying to reach earthquake victims with no functioning airstrips. The current mid-sized prototype can carry 1,000 kilograms of cargo 1,000 kilometers and land on a 100-meter airstrip–the size of a high school soccer field. Godsall is planning demonstrations of his blimp planes in 2012 and 2013. Check out the video above as well as the intro to SolarShip to see the first test flights and the shape that green transportation could take in a zero emissions future.