An airship, also known as a dirigible balloon, is a form of aerostat or lighter-than-air aircraft that can fly through the air on its own. Aerostats provide lift by utilizing a lifting gas that is less dense than the surrounding air.
Before the 1940s, airships were the most popular type of aircraft capable of controlled powered flight. Their popularity declined as planes’ capabilities surpassed theirs. Airships are classified into three types: rigid, semi-rigid, and non-rigid. Non-rigid airships are frequently referred to as blimps.
Internal pressure is used by blimps to keep their shape. Semi-rigid airships depend on internal pressure to keep their shape; however, the structure is also supported by a metal keel at the bottom. Rigid airships, commonly known as zeppelins, feature a structural design that maintains the shape of the airship, and the lifting gas is housed in one or more cells within the airship.
In September 1852, the first steam-powered airship rose to the skies. Blimps assumed to be the vision of air transportation fifty-one years before the Wright brothers’ first flight.
Who invented the airships?
Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin was a German general who invented the rigid airships. He established Luftschiffbau Zeppelin. His name was instantly associated with airships, and he ruled long-distance flight until the 1930s.
Zeppelin’s plans for massive airships were originally recorded in a diary entry on March 25, 1874. Zeppelin gave his full attention to airships after resigning from the army in 1891 at the age of 52. He hired engineer Theodor Gross to conduct experiments on potential materials and to evaluate available engines in terms of fuel efficiency and power-to-weight ratio.
His first rigid-frame airship, built in 1900, served as the template for several following variants. The zeppelin airship was made out of a row of 17 rubberized cloth-covered gas cells. It measured 420 feet long and 38 feet across, with a hydrogen-gas capacity of 399,000 cubic feet. Two 15-horsepower internal combustion engines powered the aluminum ship, which was steered by front and aft rudders.
Airships on World War
In the year 1910, Zeppelin had established the first commercial air service for passengers, using his airship that could travel at speeds of up to 40 miles per hour. During World War I, the zeppelin was immensely valuable in providing increased aircraft presence for patrols and bombing runs.
Bombing missions, particularly those targeting London, caught the German public’s imagination but had little material success.
Why did airships fail?
A succession of high-profile mishaps accelerated their demise, including the 1930 fall and destruction of the British R101 in France, the 1933 and 1935 storm-related accidents of the twin airborne aircraft carrier U.S.
After a number of catastrophes, most notably the German airship Hindenburg, which burst into flames upon landing in New Jersey in 1937, killing 35 persons on board, the collapse of airships was accelerated.
The major reason you never see airships in the skies anymore is because they are so expensive to build and operate. They are extremely expensive to manufacture and to fly. According to Wilnechenko, airships require a considerable amount of helium, that can cost up to $100,000 for a single journey.
Another important factor is the technological advancements of drones. It has become more dependable in recent years and are a simpler and less expensive approach to capture things from the sky. Nowadays you can see a lot of individuals who uses this to capture events.
The comeback of airships in the future
Airplanes contribute to climate change through air pollution and carbon emissions. Companies looks for options that are both environmentally friendly and convenient to commute to. An airship is one of the machines that makes it feasible.
Although this kind of transportation may appear new to some, the history of airships dates back to 1783. Planes used 18.27 billion gallons of fuel in 2019, which is far from being carbon-neutral. Because of the lifting effect of the helium, blimps have an extremely low net weight of aircraft.
If this mode of transportation becomes available for commercial flights in the future, travel will be more convenient and the Earth’s air will be cleaner. The new helium airships use a combination of combustion and electric engines.
This hybrid electric-powered vehicle reduces carbon emissions by 90%. Airships provide a luxurious ride into the sky with nearly no noise. They can transport up to 20 passengers, while the future airships will be able to transport up to 100 passengers.
Fun and Interesting Facts about the Airship
1. In 1910, the first commercial Zeppelin flight took place.
2. Helium, an inert gas, is used to inflate blimps.
3. Hydrogen, which is lighter than air, was used in the early airships. Hydrogen is also extremely flammable and hazardous. Helium took its place.
4. In addition to the regular Zeppelin, Graf von Zeppelin patented the “Lenkbarer Luftfahrzug,” a rigid airship consisting of three connected airships – Steerable air train. Except on paper, the idea never saw the light of day.
5. A blimp can hold 75 million golf balls.
6. The only solid pieces of a blimp are the gondola, which houses the passengers, and the tail fins, which provide stability.
7. Airship travel were stopped in the late 1930s due to the high cost of operating and maintaining the ships. They were very perilous, frequently collapsing in storms.
8. During World War I, certain blimps were utilized for patrolling by the United States Navy.
9. The first Zeppelin ZL-1 was built in a shed that sailed on the surface of the lake, allowing it to be aligned with the wind.
10. The Graf Zeppelin was completed in 1928. This airship flew 590 times and traversed the Atlantic 144 times.
11. A blimp consumes less gasoline in two weeks than a 747 airliner does just to taxi to the runway.
12. Helgoland Island Air Disaster was the first deadly Zeppelin disaster.
Wrapping it up
Even though airships are no longer utilized for substantial cargo and passenger transportation, they are however employed for advertising, tourism, monitoring, study, and advocacy. Who knows, maybe in a few years, with the incredible innovation that our technology currently provides, airships will make a comeback and become a sustainable mode of transportation.