A new generation of high-tech, safe, and eco-friendly airships aim to not only go where roads currently can’t in northern Canada, western China, and Africa, but also to replace the complicated, carbon-heavy infrastructure we now use to transport goods across the world. The SkyTug and SkyFreighter from Millenium AirShip, Inc., and the P-791 prototype from Lockheed Martin are just a few of the gentle giants aiming to green air transport in the next few years.
Airships have gotten a bad rap because of the Hindenburg disaster in 1937, but modern airships steer clear of hydrogen, opting instead for helium. The new generation of airships is also equipped with the latest in navigation technology, air-cushioned landing gear that can land the ship on land or water, and most can be unloaded without a large ground crew, which could greatly simplify the logistics of freight transport. Best of all, these new airships are green and cost-effective: Airships “give you access and much larger payloads at much lower costs,” said Peter DeRobertis, the project leader for commercial hybrid air vehicles at Lockheed Martin’s Aeronautics and Skunk Works division in Fort Worth. “It’s also a green aircraft; you’re not polluting.”