Around one hundred years ago, the big, silent giants fascinated the public as they slowly glided through the skies. In fact, airships were already being developed from the mid-nineteenth century onwards. Yet, with the tragic Hindenburg disaster in 1937, and the growing success of commercial aircraft, airships largely disappeared into the background by 1940, being deployed solely for meteorological or geological observation purposes, aerial camera platforms, military “blimps” or the odd tourist attraction over the subsequent years.
Yet, the desire for airships is still out there, and various prototypes have been also developed over the past couple of decades, or are planned, with a view to transporting cargo. One such company with a cargo-airship vision, is Atlas LTA Advanced Technology, Ltd…
Atlas LTA Advanced Technology, Ltd, based in Rosh Ha’Ayin, Israel, and established in 2016 by Gennadiy Verba, a Russian-Israeli airship and aerostat specialist with over 30 years’ experience, has
plans to produce the ATLANT family, and is on the lookout for investors.
“Change Transportation Forever”
“New Israeli Airship Innovations Will Change Transportation Forever” was the bold headline of a recent article in the Jewish Business News which reports in depth on the company’s plans. The ATLANT family is made up of three models. All three would be unmanned, hybrid airships, built to transport heavy cargo over long distances. The smallest model is the ATLANT 30 (99m x 58m x 23.5m), capable of uplifting 18 tons, followed by the ATLANT 100 (140m x 67m x 33.4m) which can carry 60 tons. The largest model, however, the ATLANT 300, would be enormous: 198 meters in length, 97 meters in width, and a height of 47 meters – in other words, the length of two and half 747s standing nose to tail, almost double as wide and double as high. It would be capable of transporting around 165 tons of cargo – so slightly more than an AN-124, quite a bit less than the AN-225, but still very impressive. All three versions would be able to travel at a speed of 120 km/h and go a distance of 2000 km.
Transporting oversize parts to hard-to-reach locations
Yet not only the cargo capacity is interesting, the USPs when it comes to the Atlas cargo airships include their resilience – they would be able to fly even in very adverse weather conditions – and their versatility: they can take off vertically (VTOL), just like a helicopter or drone, and therefore do not require landing pads or special ground facilities. Atlas co-owner, Yaron Bul, summarized those points during a recent TechTime interview: “Those devices are designed to operate in the most difficult weather conditions. The body is rigid. The airship is a good alternative to land transportation by truck, which can be very dangerous during the winter in countries like Russia or Canada.”
Given the fact that Atlas’s cargo airships are not bound to specific airport facilities and can be deployed directly from the cargo’s starting point to its destination without the need for interim stops, their application is also much more cost-effective than air cargo planes. “Our airships will offer much cheaper prices per ton per kilometer, compared to many other means of transportation.”
Green, clean, and quiet…
Cost-effectivity is the one bonus, cargo airships are also clear winners when it comes to sustainability and the environment. With the direct transportation possibilities and the use of hybrid engines, each flight would cause much fewer carbon emissions than an airplane travelling the same distance. Since large cargo can easily be transported in one piece, fewer flights per shipment would be required. Finally, noise pollution would also be kept at a minimum.
Wind turbines and World Food Programs…
According to Atlas, the UN World Food Program (WFP) and a wind turbines manufacturer have already shown interest and signed Letters of Intent which could lead to both customers deploying around 20 airships in future. The WFP would be using them to supply food to remote destinations all over the world, while the turbine manufacturer’s interest lies in transporting its 83m-long turbine blades – usually a very tricky operation using long road vehicles. The Atlas website lists a whole host of other possible applications for airships, from emergency response units in the form of mobile hospitals to flooded areas, for example, or fighting forest fires, to being deployed as a kind of crane, lifting heaving objects into place.
Is it time to invest in airships?
Given their clear environmental advantage, various research institutes such as Allied Market Research predict that the airship market will see major growth in the coming years. Certainly, our skies will see greater diversity in flying machines, so if you are looking to invest, Atlas - which also has a line-up of smaller, passenger airship models and is already in discussion with a number of companies with regard to tourist airship designs - could well be a good bet.
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