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These eco-zeppelins could help to clean up the aviation industry

A small Bedford-based tech start-up called Hybrid Air Vehicles has just sold 10 environmentally friendly airships to a Spanish airliner. Could this be the early knockings of a cleaner aviation industry?

As you’re no doubt aware by now, the aviation industry is a serious carbon emitter.

Reportedly responsible for around 2% of all human-created pollution, the planes that fly us across oceans and all over the globe continue to create headaches for policymakers.

The pressure is on for officials to finally clean up commercial industries before 2050, and the lack of scale with sustainable fuel has prevented airliners from fully taking the plunge – if you’ll excuse the terrifying imagery.

There has been a promising development this week, however, which could help the biggest carriers to put a dent in their respective carbon footprints, if they take notice.

In the UK, more specifically a town called Bedford in South Yorkshire, a savvy start-up called Hybrid Air Vehicles has been decking out giant twin-zeppelins powered by helium.

The ‘Airlander 10’ crafts were once designed for surveillance missions in Afghanistan, but have since been transformed into commercial vehicles capable of transporting 100 travellers at a time. The lounge cabins look positively sleek too.

Each of these Hybrid Air Vehicles – of which 100 planned are for development – will reportedly have a carbon footprint per-passenger of around 4.5kg compared to 53kg on a regular jet. This makes them hot property as airliners look for green solutions to put a dent in their carbon outlays now.

In terms of other practical benefits, each zeppelin, impressively, can stay in the air for five days at a time. It can also travel at maximum speeds of 130km (80mph) with a single flight range of more than 7,000km.

In theory, this means a trip from the UK to Canada, for instance, could be achieved without any pit stop and with power to spare.

On Wednesday (15/06), major Spanish airline ‘Air Nostrum’ announced it had put in an order for 10 of these zeppelins and a further 90, once production really gets up and running in Yorkshire. Commercial interest is apparently booming elsewhere too.

‘The Airlander 10 will drastically reduce emissions and for that reason we have made this agreement with HAV,’ said Air Nostrum President Carlos Bertomeu. The delivery quota will now be staggered throughout the next 5 years.

The airline has yet to clarify which routes it plans to unleash the Airlander 10 on, but has previously suggested that a Barcelona to Palma de Mallorca trip was being weighed up – and that it could be completed in less than five hours.

With grants from the EU and the UK it will be interesting to see whether other prominent airliners hop on this opportunity in the coming months.

Until more feasible aviation fuel projects come to the forefront, these companies have to start somewhere. Why not the Airliner 10?


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