Hybrid Air Vehicles recently completed the Airlander 10’s third test flight, which lasted almost three hours. Called the largest aircraft on the planet, it has no internal structure, but maintains its huge barrel shape due to the pressure stabilization of the helium inside the hull and the “smart,” strong Vectran material of which it is constructed. Carbon composites are used throughout the aircraft for strength and weight savings.
The company’s technical data state that the envelope is composed of a helium-filled, laminated fabric construction hull. The hull’s aerodynamic shape, an elliptical cross-section allied to a cambered longitudinal shape, provides up to 40 percent of the vehicle’s lift. The internal diaphragms required to support this shape allow for a limited amount of compartmentalization, further enhancing the fail-safe nature of the vehicle. Multiple ballonets located fore and aft in each of the hulls provide pressure control.
The company says the aircraft combines the best characteristics of fixed wing aircraft and helicopters, with lighter-than-air technology that’s used to create a new breed of hyper-efficient aircraft. Hybrid Air Vehicles predicts that, because Airlander 10 can stay airborne for up to five days at a time, the aircraft will fulfill a range of communication, cargo and survey roles in both military and commercial sectors. The aircraft is also said to create a significantly lower carbon footprint than other forms of air transport.