Gasbag Hybrid, But Not Full Of Hot Air

A gasbag hybrid that isn’t full of hot air is featured in today’s BBC UK News (1). English technology has taken a leap towards blue skies with a Hybrid Air Vehicle. A “small” prototype was launched a little over 20 months ago (1) but the big day finally came last month.

The launch of the “big” one was announced by Hybrid Air Vehicles Ltd. On August 12 (3). With a rather large contract from the US Army, the company has built a wide (180 feet), long (400feet), fat (~100feet) bag of gas, namely helium.

Is it an airship? Not exactly. That technology was old hat. Materials are of course, modern, but that’s not it. As it rumbles, along the shape gives it lift. So it can take off from a short runway. With a bit more gas it can take off/land/hover like a helicopter. Better than that though, it can come down on water and zoom around like a hovercraft. (A video is available of the prototype (1).)

It is called the LEMV. The Army loves acronyms. It stands for Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle. The idea is that it can mooch around up in the sky for a month or more at a time. It can be piloted from the ground as an alternative to personnel on board. It is also capable of carrying very heavy loads. (Maybe a hoard of little drones? Who knows, there are endless possibilities.)

If the line of vehicles takes off, so to speak, civilian versions could abound. They could be invaluable for taking supplies into areas that have had a natural disaster as they don’t need an airfield and the load would be large for goods in and injured out.

Load carrying with low fuel demand also sounds good. With such a large surface area, it’s just crying out for photovoltaic cells to provide solar power input into the drive and control systems giving the hybrid vehicle a hybrid fuel capacity.

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