British aerospace company Hybrid Air Vehicles yesterday flew its Airlander 10 airship for the first time.
The Airlander 10 took off from Cardington Airfield in England at 19:45 yesterday and conducted a short 19 minute flight before being forced to land due to nightfall.
During this first test flight, the craft reportedly flew to a height of 500ft (152.4m) and travelled at a top speed of 35 knots (64km/h).
“It was privilege to fly the Airlander for the first time and it flew wonderfully. I’m really excited about getting it airborne. It flew like a dream,” said Chief Test Pilot Dave Burns.
This maiden flight was an important demonstration of the technology underpinning this new class of aircraft.
While resembling a blimp or zeppelin, the 92m-long Airlander 10 is a new and advanced design called a ‘hybrid airship’.
Within a hybrid airship, the lift is provided not just from the buoyancy of the balloon, but also from the body of the airship which acts as a giant wing.
Billed as being a freight aircraft able to deliver to cargo to remote corners of the planet, the Airlander 10 can travel at up to 148 km/h and land without the need for a runway.
The original research behind this craft was undertaken by the US Department of Defense before the project was shuttered due to funding cuts.
Since then Hybrid Air Vehicles has taken up the vehicle’s development and has now demonstrated that it can fly in real world conditions.
Following this first flight, the company intends to conduct many more tests of the Airlander 10, totaling up to 200 hours of flight time, before it begins demonstrating its capabilities to clients.
Nonetheless, Hybrid Air Vehicles claims that there is already a considerable interest in the unique capabilities of the aircraft.
“Customer interest is strong due to these game-changing capabilities of the Airlander – it offers a stable platform with huge amounts of power and space for search & rescue or communications equipment, and also offers a unique passenger experience,” they state in a press release.
Despite this successful maiden flight, it is unclear when the first commercial sales of these hybrid airships will begin.