We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. By browsing this website, you agree to our use of cookies.

Find out more

Meet Airlander

Airlander uses a combination of proven aerospace technologies from a mixture of airships (hull fabric and helium), fixed-wing aircraft (composite structures, engines, and avionics), and helicopters (vectored thrust). This combination makes Airlander a cutting edge aircraft with a game changing capability.

Airlander gets its lift from a combination of buoyancy, aerodynamics, and vectored thrust.

Airlander’s helium-filled hull and low flight speed also make it a low-vibration and low-G aircraft, which improves reliability. The aircraft also has features that make it inherently safer than other aircraft. This is particularly true in comparison to helicopters, as Airlander is not reliant on any single engine.

The green tech

The design of a hybrid aircraft, combining buoyant lift from helium with aerodynamic lift and vectored thrust, creates significant efficiency over conventional fixed and rotary wing aircraft.

Using the buoyant lift of helium reduces the fuel burn required just to keep the aircraft airborne – most of the airframe’s weight is countered by the helium’s buoyancy. Airlander 10 uses between 1/4 and 1/3 as much fuel as other aircraft performing the same task.

We're moving forward

Read about E-HAV1


HAV is committed to the zero-carbon aviation future, and Airlander is uniquely suited to achieving this goal. The aircraft has the potential to carry future battery and solar cell technology at the scale required to achieve ultra-low and zero-carbon operations. In the near term, we have partnered with industry and research to develop electric engines suitable for Airlander 10.

Thanks to Airlander’s modular design, we can progressively adopt these electric engines, first as a hybrid of electric and fuel-burning engines before moving to all-electric. This provides a realistic and risk-reduced development path for this vital technology.

Read more

Technical Details

Open all

The Hull

Airlander 10 is a bi-hulled hybrid aircraft. The hull itself is a laminated fabric consisting of materials designed for strength, helium retention, and durability. Filled with helium, the hull is aerodynamic: an elliptical cross section with a cambered longitudinal shape.

Inside the hull, the aircraft has multiple ballonets. These compartments, filled with air, help to maintain the internal pressure of the hull as the helium expands and contracts (with temperature and altitude changes, for example). They also offer additional control of the aircraft for the pilots, who can adjust the ballonets.

In the event of damage to the hull, on-board automatic pressure management systems compensate for a helium leak with managed degradation, allowing the aircraft to fly to a base for repair and helium replenishment. Thanks to the low pressure differential, helium leaks very slowly, even from multiple holes in the fabric.

Engines

Airlander’s four engines are currently diesel engines burning jet fuel. During typical cruise, the forward two engines are shut down. This further reduces both fuel burn and engine noise. In addition, the aircraft is capable of being safely landed with any two of its four engines.

We are currently working in partnership with Collins Aerospace and the University of Nottingham to develop electric propulsion for Airlander 10. Project E-HAV1 will develop and ground-test an engine specifically designed to meet Airlander's needs. This is a key step on our journey to zero-carbon aviation. Read more about the project.

Flight Test and Current Development Status

HAV is the world leader in hybrid aircraft and the only company to have flown a full-scale prototype. Through a successful flight test programme and design refinements, the technology has reached a Technology Readiness Level of 7, demonstrating that we are ready to move into production.

The prototype Airlander 10 completed seven flights, flying for the first time across a significant part of its ultimate flight envelope. This testing programme demonstrated its performance, capability, and the reliability of its key systems. This allowed HAV to validate and calibrate our aircraft simulation and modelling capability, which underpins the Type Certified production aircraft programme.

Over the course of our testing programme, we incorporated more than 500 modifications to improve flight characteristics, operation, and maintenance. We also completed hundreds of hours of simulated flying.

In September 2018, EASA awarded HAV a Design Organisation Approval (DOA). This is an important milestone on the path to bringing the production Airlander 10 into service with customers. It also represents a major achievement for HAV, as just eight other organisations hold an EASA DOA for type certifying large aircraft. We also secured an additional major required regulatory approval in December 2018, when the UK Civil Aviation Authority awarded us a Production Organisation Approval (POA).

Composites

Airlander uses two different types of composite structures for the rigid elements of the aircraft, including the fins and payload module. These two types of composites are carbon fibre and glass fibre, technologies widely used in other aircraft and vehicle manufacturing.

Fly By Light

Airlander uses fibre optic control systems. We use these over conventional copper wires for a number of reasons. Firstly, fibre optics provide a means of data transmission that is highly resilient to electromagnetic interference and HIRF (High Intensity Radiated Field). Fibre optics are also highly resilient to lightning.

Fibre optics are also much lighter in weight than conventional copper wires, helping keep the overall weight of the aircraft down.

Finally, our fibre optic control systems provide higher data transmission rates than copper cables, allowing for the addition of multiple high definition cameras on the aircraft's hull to meet customer needs.

Helium

Airlander's hull is filled with helium. An inert gas, helium is the first noble gas on the periodic table and is both the second lightest and second most abundant element in our universe.

Helium's lighter-than-air nature allows it to "float", which generates lift. For Airlander, this lift offsets the weight of the aircraft and allows us to use significantly less thrust to stay airborne. This is a key part of why Airlander consumes less fuel than other comparable aircraft.

Although all hybrid and lighter-than-air aircraft use helium to generate lift, this accounts for only a small percentage of the annual use of helium. The majority of helium is used in cooling applications, such as in medical equipment, and other industrial uses.

We're frequently asked about the world's supply of helium. Read more here.

Have a question?

Read our FAQs