Aircraft

Airlander 10's new propulsion system will be hybrid-electric

Airlander 10's new propulsion ...
As is the case with the current flying prototype, the production version of the Airlander 10 (seen here) won't require special runways for take-offs or landings
As is the case with the current flying prototype, the production version of the Airlander 10 (seen here) won't require special runways for take-offs or landings
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As is the case with the current flying prototype, the production version of the Airlander 10 (seen here) won't require special runways for take-offs or landings
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As is the case with the current flying prototype, the production version of the Airlander 10 (seen here) won't require special runways for take-offs or landings

It was just last month that Hybrid Air Vehicles announced the planned production version of its prototype Airlander 10 airship. At the time, the company mentioned an optional electric propulsion system – more details on that system have now been released.

For those who are unfamiliar with the Airlander 10, it's currently the world's largest aircraft. Measuring 92 m (302 ft) in length, it's powered by four 325-hp (242-kW) turbocharged diesel engines and uses aerodynamic lift like a conventional fixed-wing aircraft to take off, with helium keeping it aloft once it's in the air.

What's more, it can carry payloads of up to 10,000 kg (22,050 lb), stay in the air for five days at a time with a crew, and doesn't require a purpose-built runway.

We're told that the new electric propulsion system will in fact be a hybrid – the rear two diesel engines will remain in place, but the front two will be replaced by 500-kW electric motors. Operators can run just those two motors for eco-friendly pure-electric flight, or run the motors and engines together for faster hybrid-electric propulsion.

Pure-electric mode should provide a cruising speed of 50 knots (93 km/h, 58 mph) and a maximum range of 350 km (217 miles), with hybrid mode boosting both the range and the speed – the latter up to 70 knots (130 km/h, 81 mph).

The UK-based company states that all told, the hybrid version of the Airlander 10 should be able to transport 90 passengers from Liverpool to Newcastle (a distance of about 200 km/124 miles) in around two hours, but with 90 percent fewer emissions than a conventional airliner – and in greater comfort, with less noise.

It is hoped that the production model of the airship, in both standard and hybrid configurations, will be ready for delivery to clients by 2025.

Source: Hybrid Air Vehicles

6 comments
Philip Argy
Although most business travellers opt for speed, there's a class of travellers for whom this more leisurely and scenic mode of travel would be ideal. My only query would be the apparent use of legs rather than wheels as landing 'gear'. I'd have thought some rolling capability would be useful, even if only to assist "parking" positioning.
byrneheart
Why is this range so limited? With helium doing the heavy work and so large a surface to put solar panels on to feed electric propulsion.
byrneheart
Surely with a 10 000 kg payload that can be used for fuel when not dedicated to cargo, to increase range.
paul314
Back to electric range anxiety, are we? If it can stay up for 5 days, the diesel range is going to be lot longer. Might want to wait for better batteries.

Meanwhile, speed has definitely become a more complicated question for travelers. Time in main-stage transit is often dwarfed by time getting to airport/train station/wherever, getting through security, getting to the actual destination on the other end. And time recovering from travel -- if slower travel means a bigger cabin and people able to work effectively and arrive fresh, that's less total time lost.
GordonHoffman
I have long wanted a personalized sized balloon/plane so I could fly around in slow motion - maybe a human/electric hybrid powered.
Could one stretch and change the shape while in motion to decrease drag - maybe double the speed?
Definitely print some PVs on that thing.
Watch out for that Jet Stream!
buzzclick
This technology doesn't fit well with commuting travelers. Phil Argy's point about the feet as opposed to rolling landing gear is a good one. I liken this airship to a big yacht with sails. It has a diesel motor for days when there's little wind, but as long as there is some blowing and you have plenty of provisions on board, you are free to go practically anywhere as with this Airlander and solar PV energy. There could and would be a substantial market for people who just want to cruise the skies, taking their time to go wherever they planned, like an (air) cruise vacation making stops here and there. Of course, having constant communication with weather data, they can easily avoid any turbulence ahead. It's a wonderful concept with a lot of potential now that solar technology is here. Equipped with an efficient kitchen, saunas and even a swimming pool, it would be a marvelous experience!