Thundebird 2 is go! California firm unveils gigantic amphibious airship which could revolutionize air travel as we know it
- The Aeroscraft can take off and land without an airstrip meaning it can operate even in war zones and disaster areas
Zeppelins were once considered the future of air transport - but after the horror of the Hindenburg disaster, they disappeared from the skies for more than 75 years.
Now a pioneering aviation firm hopes to bring back the airships in a bid to revolutionise the global market in transporting freight.
The Aeroscraft is built using innovative technology which allows it to control its flight better than previous airships, so it should avoid the problems experienced by the first generation of zeppelins.
It requires only a third as much fuel as an aeroplane carrying cargo, and it can take off and land anywhere even without a formal airstrip - including on water - making it well suited to war zones and disaster areas.
The aircraft has been designed thanks to a $3million grant from the U.S. government, and it will soon be ready for its first test flight, according toBusiness Insider.
The Aeroscraft is designed by Worldwide Aeros Corp., who predict that it will change the way that goods are moved around the world by providing a mode of transport which is cheaper than planes but faster than ships.
The key technological breakthrough came when the firm's founder Igor Pasternak came up with a way to compress helium, which allows the airship to control its weight.
The Aeroscraft can take off and land vertically, like a helicopter, so it can visit destinations which do not have an airport.
This means that even though its 115mph average speed is much slower than a jet aeroplane at 500mph-plus, the overall travel time could be lower because it can travel directly from where goods are produced to where they are needed.
Worldwide Aeros hope that this will make it useful to the military and aid charities operating in parts of the world with poorly developed infrastructure on the ground.
Market: The firm behind the airship insists that it will be perfect for any company involved in transporting goods
Testing: The manufacturers will be hoping to avoid the safety problems which plagued early generations of zeppelins
It may seem flimsy compared to a metal jet, but the Aeroscraft has bulletproof skin, and even if its exterior is breached it does not deflate like a balloon.
The firm claims that its first airships will be available to customers in mid-2015, when they will be rented out for a year at a time.
A model of the zeppelin which carries 66 tonnes will cost more than $25million per year, while a 250-tonne version will be $55million.