An Emerging Generation of Airships
Designed for Cheaper, Cleaner Air Transport
A handful of aeronautics companies are developing a new generation of blimp-like hybrid airships
that they hope will provide an air cargo alternative to fuel-guzzling aircraft and revive an industry
A modern airship
undermined by the 1937 Hindenburg disaster. Utilizing advancements in structural design, materials, and engine technology, developers say the new, more durable airships will be able to carry large loads of freight at a fraction of the cost of conventional aircraft — and require significantly less fuel. Initially, the industry will target markets where highways and airports don’t exist — including remote parts of northern Canada and China’s western frontier — before attempting to penetrate more saturated freight markets. Within two years, U.S.-based Lockheed Martin aims to introduce for commercial use its prototype SkyTug, an airship with a 20-ton payload and a range of 1,000 nautical miles, according to a report in The Daily Climate. Unlike the ill-fated Hindenburg, which carried flammable hydrogen, modern airships carry helium, developers say. “And if all the engines quit, it won’t come down like an aluminum tube,” said Gil Costin, founder and CEO of Millennium Airship, Inc.
, a Washington-based firm that aims to launch a fleet of airships by 2020.
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Photographer Robert Wintner documents the exquisite beauty and biodiversity of Cuba’s coral reefs, which are largely intact thanks to stifled coastal development in the communist nation. View the gallery.
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The Warriors of Qiugang
, a Yale Environment 360
video, chronicles a Chinese village’s fight against a polluting chemical plant. It was nominated for a 2011 Academy Award for Best Documentary Short.
Watch the video.
Top Image: aerial view of Iceland
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A three-part series Tainted Harvest
looks at the soil pollution crisis in China, the threat it poses to the food supply, and the complexity of any cleanup. Read the series.