We’ve been hearing more and more about airships being a greener transportation alternative to regular planes, and now we have a chance to see one in action. The US Navy has deployed their colossal MZ-3A airship to assist in cleaning up the massive BP oil spill that we’ve been reporting on and it was expected to have arrived in the Gulf yesterday. The blimp will support and coordinate oil skimming efforts and be on the lookout for animals in need of help along the coastline.

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So why choose a blimp to help in the cleanup? Well, the MZ-3A’s low operating speed means that it can stay aloft for 12 continuous hours. It can survey large patches of land (and ocean), and the low speed at which it travels allows crews to more easily coordinate skimming, burning, and dispersing efforts below. The airship is also more economical and more efficient than helicopters or planes when used over long periods of time.

Working aboard the ship, relief crews will observe and report on any injured animals they observe and communicate that information to Incident Commands so that they can dispatch teams to the affected areas. While we do wish that the airship being used in the efforts was a hybrid or solar-powered like the ones we’ve reported on, we applaud the Navy for at least passing over jets or helicopters and opting for a lower-emission vehicle.

Via PopSci