A hybrid aircraft derives its lift from a combination of aerodynamic lift (like an aeroplane), lifting gases (like an airship) and vectored thrust (similar to a helicopter). Airlander generates up to 40% of its lift from aerodynamics by the passage of air over the hull and the remainder from buoyant lift from the helium. At lower speed and closer to the ground, vectoring engine power is used to provide additional lift and manoeuvrability for take-off, landing and ground handling.
The idea is to have the best of all worlds. The lifting gas offsets the weight of the aircraft meaning that less energy is required to keep it aloft. Like an airship, this means that it can carry a lot of payload, burn very little fuel and fly for a long time.
The use of aerodynamic lift means that Airlander can generate more or less lift as required. This means that, unlike an airship, it is heavier-than-air. It can therefore stay in place on the ground while it is loaded, unloaded, fuelled and maintained, meaning that it requires little or no expensive, fixed infrastructure.
In this way, Airlander combines the efficiency, capability and environmental friendliness of an airship with the practicality of a normal aircraft. Airlander minimises the need for expensive ground infrastructure to operate the aircraft in remote places, while enabling safe, quiet, efficient and capable flight. Its low cost, low environmental impact and unique flight capabilities enable us to Rethink the Skies.
It does not need to. Although large, Airlander needs only an open, relatively flat space to take off and land. This allows the aircraft to land in remote locations for surveillance operations or to take passengers to the furthest corners of our world. This flexibility in operations is one advantage of Airlander’s hybrid design. Unlike traditional airships, Airlander is heavier-than-air, which allows it to "sit" on the ground similar to an aeroplane or helicopter.
Airlander is designed and manufactured to the same standards of safety as every other aircraft. Airlander will have an EASA type certificate, and we are approved by EASA to design and build aircraft. Equally, in operation, its operators will be subject to the same regulations as apply to other aircraft.
Like any other commercial aircraft, Airlander will be type certified and capable of flying in a wide range of weather conditions. The aircraft can safely take off and land in up to 30 knots of wind. Unlike other large aircraft, Airlander is not cross-wind restricted, as it can simply turn into the wind and take off in any direction.
The aircraft will also be capable of withstanding lightning strikes and icing conditions. This is a requirement for all type certified commercial aircraft.
Unlike most aircraft, the majority of Airlander's maintenance can be performed on the mast without the need for a hangar. Some maintenance is most easily performed while in a hangar, so we have designed a hangar specifically for Airlander.
Like all aircraft utilising lighter-than-air technology, Airlander burns much less fuel in flight than conventional aircraft. The buoyant lift of helium offsets the weight of the aircraft, therefore requiring much less thrust to generate lift.
We have partnered with Collins Aerospace and the University of Nottingham to develop electric engines for Airlander 10. Read more about Project E-HAV1.
We're now working towards the type certified production aircraft. We are anticipating aircraft in service with customers from the early 2020s, with test flying to begin at some point before that. The exact timeline is dependent on a variety of factors including orders, certification, and build progress.
We are currently preparing for the launch of our production and type certification programme. This programme will deliver the first Airlander 10s into service with customers.
There will be many milestones during the course of the programme, so you can expect further updates as we progress.
We have not yet determined where our final assembly and airfield will be located, but our headquarters and Airlander Technology Centre are both located in Bedford. We'll make further announcements in due course.