New Freight Airships

07/10/2011

A new generation of airships is being developed for freight transportation which experts believe could replace lorries, trains and ships as a method of carrying freight.

The prototype is being designed by NASA, the American space agency and comes over 70 years since the Hindenburg airship disaster which tragically caused 36 fatalities. The disaster was caused after the aircraft caught fire and was destroyed during its attempt to dock. The disaster marked the end of the airship era as a form of transportation.

The new generation of airships will be capable of safely carrying loads that could not be managed in the past. Recent reports suggest the airship production is on track to perform its maiden journey next year and scientists working on the project believe that airships carrying hundreds of tonnes of cargo will be in regular operation by the end of the decade.

The reason for the change in confidence of the airship, following the Hindenburg disaster, comes after the development of modern materials and aerodynamics knowledge which means that airships will be able to carry loads previously impossible.

Dr Simon Worden, director of the NASA Ames Research Center in California, said: “Currently the majority of goods are put on trucks and trains to be transported around the country.

“That is a very expensive and time consuming process. You could imagine an airship landing in a field, loading produce directly and then delivering it anywhere in the world for much cheaper than we can today. Those sorts of things look very promising.”

The possibilities created by the substantial volume the airships can carry could significantly change the way international freight is conducted. The news could come as a blow to Boeing following their investment of billions of dollars into the new Boeing – 747-8 freight  (For more detail read here) although it is still too early to completely say the impact the new airships will have.