Airships are relatively cheap, they can carry a substantial amount of cargo, and they are significantly more environmentally friendly than their heavier-than-air relatives. Once thought to have passed into memory, the eerily quiet giants of the sky are having something of a renaissance.
After a series of spectacular crashes with tragic results, the imposing airships of the early 20th century lost out to their smaller but safer heavier aircraft relations. However, as they are also known, dirigibles are being recognized as a potential means to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve cargo connectivity in hard-to-reach regions of the world.
Over a decade ago, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) called specifically for cargo operators to embrace dirigibles as a way to meet environmental targets. An airship is estimated to produce 80 to 90% fewer emissions than a conventional aircraft.
As aviation struggles to come to terms with both the worst crisis it has ever faced in COVID-19 and one of the worst crises humanity has ever faced in climate change, could airships be part of the solution? Let’s take a look at what is happening in the world of lighter-than-air aircraft and the progress made towards safer airship technology.