Up and Away! World's Largest Airship Lifts Off for the First Time

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More than 70
years after the Hindenburg disaster ended the golden airship era,
giant blimps will take to the skies again with the launch of the
world’s largest inflatable craft.

The pioneering
Bullet 580 is a 235ftlong and 65ft in diameter ship that can lift
payloads of 2,000lbs up to 20,000ft in the air.

It was inflated
this week inside the Garret Coliseum in Alabama – one of the few
facilities large enough to host the ship. The process took the developers
at E-Green Technologies just over six hours.

The £5.5million
craft can be flown remotely or with a crew. The company plan to
build a fleet of hire vehicles that they will rent out for between
£200,000 and £550,000 a month.

Chief Executive
of E-Green Technologies, Mike Lawson, said: ‘It’s slow enough to
be used for sightseeing, large enough to carry heavy cargo and enough
volume of lifting capability to be flied 20,000ft unmanned. So you
have a gift of all different technologies.’

Lift is provided
by a system of seven bags filled with helium, while the inner hull
is full of ambient air. Hydrogen was used in the 1920s and 1930s
because helium was considered too expensive at the time.

The payloads
are carried inside the outer envelope of the balloon, which is only
one sixteenth of an inch thick yet 10 times stronger than steel.
It is made from a type of Kevlar, which is the tough material used
to make bulletproof vests.

Mr Lawson,
said: ‘If you hit a hard landing, the airship is just going to kind
of bounce.’

Although the
airship only has a top speed of 80MPH it can take-off and land vertically.
The craft is also able to hover over an area for up to a week at
a time – something neither airplanes or satellites cannot manage.

The craft could
therefore keep a close watch on oil spills like the one in the Gulf
of Mexico or monitor pirates off the coast of Somalia.

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the rest of the article

May
25, 2010

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