I have this thing for Airships. I know, it was a technological dead-end, and the feasibility of modern commercial air travel via airship is the equivalent of the slow boat to China, but I’ve never stopped thinking that something with that much awesome in technology ought to have been given the chance to work out its kinks.
As it happens, there are at least ten modern airship initiatives going on as we speak (hat-tip to io9 for the link). These ten are either novelties, or still in the concept stage. One or two are in development for the military. But none of them are targeted towards practical, commercial use (save the one–the firefighting airship, but that still isn’t commercial). Now, I get that when you’re in the vaporware stage, trying to attract money, you want to do so with money-attracting ideas. Luxury floating hotels is one such idea. But once the 180 or so mega-rich people in the world have tried the novelty, you need something more.
I’ve also been keeping tabs on Ohio Airships, Inc. as they test and launch their Dynalifter. I’m excited about the possibility of an Ohio-based company tackling airship technology because a.) we could use the jobs, and b.) we come by it honestly.
The USS Akron was one of the most magnificent, if troubled, airships in the 1930’s, ending its career in tragedy in 1933, but still today holds the record with its sister ship, the USS Macon, as the largest helium-filled objects in the sky (the Hindenburg was longer, but filled with hydrogen, and I believe there are several media personalities on the market today that are in the running for largest hot air-filled gasbags, but I digress…). The Akron was, rather obviously, constructed and hangared right here in Ohio. In addition to laying claim to the Wright Brothers’ origins and Hangar 18 at Wright-Pat (this author disavows any knowledge, real or imagined, about any strange
alien aircraft weather balloons that might have made their way into or out of any parts of Ohio). So we have a strong background in alternative transportation.
The Dynalifter is a hybrid airship, meaning it makes use of aircraft and airship technology. But what impresses me most is that the concept revolves not around ridiculously expensive luxury catering towards .1% of the population who could actually afford it, but the buildup of an entire industry. Dynalifter concept revolves around using these hybrid airships in plain old, regular, mundane cargo shipping. That’s right. Air-trucks. 18 gasbags instead of 18 wheels. Moving stuff from one place to another. And…there’s a humanitarian element to them as well–moving stuff into and out of places that have been hit by natural or manmade disasters that prohibit the use of roads or land-based trucking.
The concept is eminently practical. Useful. It solves a problem (moving goods from one place to another), which is what all good inventions do. I hope to see alternative airships getting more attention in the future.