Gallery: SolarShip’s Solar Cargo Helium Plane Is a Futuristic Airship T...


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.

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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.

+ SolarShip

Via Toronto Star, Dvice


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  1. electrohumano September 24, 2013 at 9:33 pm

    Is this more sustainable than a regular plane?

  2. greengo3 February 22, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    Great story , I was wondering what these guys could do with a vertical lift multi copter known as the E-Vola , if they could place it inside a donut shaped airbag with solar power , then they would have both helium for lift and multi copter for lift ,speed and direction ??Just a thought !!

  3. zeppflyer October 25, 2011 at 9:21 am

    That looks more like the Caracal than the Chui. 150kg of net lift looks much more reasonable for a gasbag that size. There’s no way that it could lift 1000.

    Good article, but you did miss one big advance in these ships. That is, they are hybrid designs. Rather than rely entirely on helium for lift, as with a traditional airship, the gasbag is shaped like a wing which provides lift like an airplane. The advantage of this system is that it allows for a smaller gasbag than a ship which relies entirely on static lift, which allows for higher speeds and, yes, less helium usage. The disadvantage is that, like an airplane, these guys cannot hover in one place and cannot remain airborne without running their engines.

    Still, a great design which I’m very glad to see finally getting off of the ground.

  4. zeppflyer October 25, 2011 at 9:13 am

    @ Caeman. Yes and no. The vast majority of helium used in the world today comes from massive US government stockpiles held in reserve from the cold war and now being sold off at very low prices. Once this is gone, the era of cheap Helium will be over. It can be captured from some natural gas extraction and as a byproduct of some industrial chemical reactions, but the price will go way up. Where this gets really scary is when we look at Helium’s use in medicine, particularly in MRI magnet cooling. Also, say good by to maglev, at least until we develop some room temperature superconductors.

  5. caeman October 24, 2011 at 10:26 am

    Aren’t the Helium reserves are risk of being depleted in a decade or so?

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