Aircraft

Production model of Airlander 10 will be sleeker and more efficient

Production model of Airlander ...
Possible uses for the Airlander 10 include tourism, cargo transport, and scientific research
Possible uses for the Airlander 10 include tourism, cargo transport, and scientific research
View 3 Images
The production Airlander 10 will have retractable landing gear
1/3
The production Airlander 10 will have retractable landing gear
Possible uses for the Airlander 10 include tourism, cargo transport, and scientific research
2/3
Possible uses for the Airlander 10 include tourism, cargo transport, and scientific research
The current Airlander 10 prototype
3/3
The current Airlander 10 prototype

We've been following the story of the Airlander 10 airship since 2010, back when it was being developed for the US Army. It's now aimed at civilian use, with information on the planned production version of the aircraft having just been released.

As compared to the current functioning prototype, the new model will have a sleeker, more aerodynamic hull. This design update is based on both wind tunnel testing and computer modelling, along with data gathered during test flights of the prototype. Its changed shape is particularly visible in the form of a rounder nose, and a new tail section.

The cabin will also be more aerodynamic, plus it will be longer. The latter is made possible due to the fact that components such as the fuel module, which are currently slung below the prototype's hull, are being moved up into the hull. As a result, the cabin can now be up to 46 meters long by 6 m wide (151 by 20 ft). In that configuration, it offers 2,100 sq ft (195 sq m) of floor space, not including the flight deck.

Hybrid Air Vehicles, the UK company that is adapting the original technology for civilian use, previously released images of what a deluxe tourist-carrying version of that cabin might look like.

Other changes include the addition of a bow thruster for better maneuverability during ground handling, along with a move from non-retractable to retractable landing gear. Additionally, whereas the prototype's two front rotatable propulsors are currently ducted, they will be unducted on the production model. This should not only reduce weight, but also improve their ability to generate directional thrust.

The current Airlander 10 prototype
The current Airlander 10 prototype

Overall, the production version of the Airlander 10 will be five percent longer than the prototype (pictured above), which itself is 92 m (302 ft) in length. That said, Hybrid Air claims that it should be more fuel-efficient than the original, allowing it to "deliver up to a 75-percent reduction in emissions over comparable aircraft."

It should also be easier to maintain, and cost less to operate. What's more, a pure-electric propulsion system is in the works.

The production Airlander 10 will have retractable landing gear
The production Airlander 10 will have retractable landing gear

The prototype is currently the world's largest aircraft. 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.

Additionally, 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.

Source: Hybrid Air Vehicles

8 comments
paul314
If you could get flexible solar cells, there's room for a few thousand square meters of them. Probably a few hundred kilowatts net, enough to power the engines at cruise? With resupply by drone, billionaires need never touch the ground...
Grunchy
HUH. Because the Guardian said last year that the Airlander 10 prototype wasn't going to be rebuilt (after the 2016 crash when it "broke in two" on its second test flight). "We do not intend to fly the prototype again," said McGlennan (CEO of Hybrid Air Vehicles) back in 2019. Then they attempted to make a £32 million insurance claim on the destroyed airship (originally built for £25 million), of which they only got £20 million. Anyway they may have a "design already approved by the European Aviation Safety Agency" but I suspect they may have trouble obtaining insurance coverage for any future prototype models.
Phillip Jenkins
I have followed the development of the airlander with interest as it seems to have the potential of vertical heavy lift that a helicopter would find difficult. I wonder if it would have potential as a fire fighting water bomber? With its lift capacity and ability to hover it could make a good water bomber. Of course being so large and potentially prone to the winds caused by fires this may not be the case.
Jose Gros
I like this Airlander Airship, that reminds me the 1904 design by Manuel Rivera y Sempere, artillery lt colonel in Madrid, Spain: 'Memoria sobre Navegación aérea descriptiva de un sistema', document is available for download somewhere in the web as: 'Sistema de navegación aérea'. Enjoy it. Salut +
buzzclick
The thought of turning the engines off and just floating silently and effortlessly in the sky above and wafting in the breeze in any particular direction is very appealing. Then I wake up from my daydream and ask: How do you control stronger wind buffeting? What is the distance limit? Does it have a contingency plan for emergencies? Why the hell aren't they developing an electrical prototype since the concept of carrying battery banks is less of an issue (and doesn't have to be on all the time like conventional aircraft). Why haven't they developed a solar panel array on the outside that will enable it to recharge "on the fly" and theoretically stay up there for weeks and months?
Douglas Rogers
It seems like an on board helium compressor would be possible with this.
bwana4swahili
Great potential as a totally 'green' airliner!
Ralf Biernacki
As for solar cells: there is indeed "room" for them; but what matters here is weight, not acreage. Covered, even partly, with solar cells, this thing would no longer be buoyant, and would not lift from the ground. As for helium compressor; it probably carries one, to avoid venting gas when coming down. But helium will have to be made up periodically anyway, because it is very good at leaking ;-) What I'd like to know is, what is the cruising speed? Because that would answer two key questions: how far can you actually go over the alleged five days of flight, and how do you cope with high winds.