Airlander blimp is the world’s biggest aircraft

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

Airlander craft
The Airlander’s massive size and high-tech structure allows it to carry 20,000 pounds of gear.

Back in 2012, the 300-foot-long Airlander blimp took flight for the very first time, after being developed for spy missions by the USA Army’s Long Endurance Multi-intelligence Vehicle program. However, money troubles put the $154 million ship out of commission, until the original designers at Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV) bought it back for a mere $301,000. Now, the Airlander is back in action in the United Kingdom, where it will help transport cargo and save people tons of money.

Although the Airlander was originally meant to remain in the sky for 21 days and carry 2,500 pounds of communications and sensor technology, it’s now being reworked for 5 days of flight and 20,000 pounds of gear.

See, the former spy blimp will basically be used for mega transportation of heavy items that only need to be moved a short distance, like during big public sporting events or local police surveillance operations. Made of a blend of carbon fiber, mylar, and Kevlar (which is used in bulletproof vests), the blimp floats in the sky using helium.

Blimps were the first ever controllable form of powered aircraft, used mainly before the 1940s, but the development of airplanes and jets made them relics of the past. They especially fell out of favor when the massive Hindenburg blimp caught fire in 1937, shocking the public as it went down in flames with dozens of passengers inside.

Considering how expensive it can be to use helicopters and modern aircraft, however, blimps may soon become a desirable form of transportation for companies and governments looking to save money. The Airlander, for instance, costs only 10-20% as much money to operate than a helicopter, and only 10% of its helium is depleted each year. Oh, and if you’re a fabulously wealthy person looking to buy your very own personal Airlander, they’ll cost $40 million a pop! Well, maybe I shouldn’t use the word “pop” when talking about blimps…

Images courtesy of Hybrid Air Vehicles.