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Lockheed, FAA give flight to new hybrid airship

Posted On: Nov. 23, 2015 12:00 AM CST

A hybrid airship designed by Lockheed Martin could revolutionize the transport of large cargo to remote sites.

Lockheed and the Federal Aviation Administration have worked together for more than a decade to define the criteria to certify hybrid airships for transport, and the FAA has certified the unique, bulbous airships for flight, the company said Tuesday.

Thanks to their unique shape and air cushion landing system, hybrid airships can economically transport heavy cargo to and from remote locations. They burn significantly less fuel when compared to conventional aircraft, which makes them environmentally friendly, according to news reports.

The airship’s four hovercraft-like air cushioned landing pads allow it to land on a cushion of air onto flat land or water without being required to be moored on large towers like traditional airships. The pad functions can also reverse to grip the ground after landing to keep the airship stable to safely load and unload cargo. The hybrid airship offers the simplicity of a pickup truck by carrying cargo loads and personnel in and out of remote areas daily, not just certain seasons or only after major road, rail or airport infrastructure is developed.

Hybrid Enterprises, the airship resellers for Lockheed said the helium filled airship can carry 20 tons of cargo, but can easily be scaled to roughly the size of a football field with 500 tons of capacity. It has a fuel capacity of 5,000 gallons with a range of 1,400 nautical miles, and can cruise at a speed of 60 knots.

Lockheed kicked off sales for the 20-ton variety of the hybrid airship earlier this year and is on track to deliver operational airships by as early as 2018.

Given that hybrid airships did not fit within existing FAA regulations, a new set of criteria allowing nonrigid hybrid airships to safely operate in a commercial capacity had to be created. Transport Canada was also involved in the development of this criteria to ensure it included safety concerns unique to Canada.