Hybrid Air Vehicles, based in Cranfield, England, has received a launch customer order from Discovery Air in Canada to develop an airship with a 50 tonne payload that can land without an airport, or even on water.
Discovery Air serves the oil and gas and extraction markets, often operating in difficult terrain far from airports and ground service facilities. It will partner with Hybrid Air Vehicles to develop and certify the aircraft, and plans to place an order for between 10 and 45 HAV 366 airships. Each airship will be priced between $30 and $50 million.
The HAV 366 will be 358 feet long, 183 ft. wide and 107 feet high, with a maximum payload range of 1,250 nautical miles at an altitude of 9,000 feet. Its payload deck will by 95 ft. long, 13 ft. wide and 11 ft. high, enabling it to accommodate large drilling rigs or mining machinery for delivery off airport, directly on site. The airship will have a maximum airspeed of 104 knots.
Hybrid Air Vehicles re-examined the basic principles behind lighter than air science, and by applying modern technologies and materials won a recent competition partnering with Northrop Grumman for a $517 million US Army contract for a Long-Range Multi-Intelligence Vehicle (LRMV) that will be used in the Afghanistan theatre. They will now transfer these technologies into the commercial market.
Technologies that HAV will incorporate include ultra large right construction hull technology with superheat buoyancy control, the ability to operate at altitudes as high as 20,000 ft. in the jetsteam for military applications, vectored thrust and composite structures, fly by light flight controls, laminated hull fabrics, turbine propulsion, lifting body hulls, and a hover cushion landing system. This is a far cry from the Hindenberg and the Goodyear blimp we are all familiar with.
This company is not alone in thinking about airships. Even Boeing has been looking at this.