The U.S. Air Force has a 370-foot-long surveillance airship sitting in a hangar in North Carolina right now, 95% complete. In two weeks, the blimp will be ready to fly, just in time for the USAF to scrap the entire program, dismantle the hardware, and pack it all into shipping containers for storage. Sigh.
Blimps had their heyday between World War I and World War II, and since then, they've more or less been left behind by the airplane. Some things, though, blimps are just plain better at, and the Army is getting ready for the first flight of their "Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle," aka "spy blimp."
Trials have just been finished on a new kind of wind turbine — an inflated, helium shell containing traditional blades that floats in the air stream. The airborne turbine is designed to capture stronger, high-altitude winds to provide a clean, portable and power energy option.
Astronomers use two basic methods to find planets around other stars: watching to see if a star dims when a planet passes in front of it, and watching to see if a star wobbles when a planet orbits around it. Neither of these methods are very good at seeing planets directly, but a giant zeppelin-mounted aerial starshade might be able to change that.
I'll bet you never knew that the gaping hole in your life was exactly the size of one of these conceptual personal blimpjets, did you? 'Cause it is. I know, you've tried to cram flying cars and driveable planes in there to no avail, but by 2031, the blimpjet will be here to make everything complete.
It probably won't surprise you that Google has a fleet of eight private jets. And as anyone with a fleet of eight private jets knows, finding a good place to stash them is never easy. Google has its eye on borrowing an old hangar at NASA's Ames Research Center, and not just any old hangar. It's the big one.
Blimps and zeppelins are slowly but surely making a comeback. While they may not be the best way to ferry people around the world like in my steampunk fantasies, the unmanned variety, such as Lockheed Martin's HALE-D, are ideal for taking the place of satellites.
The Air Force uses a variety of different platforms to conduct surveillance over Afghanistan. Putting lots of data sources together to make sense of what's really going on is tricky, so they're spending $211 million on a crash program to launch a 'freakishly large' blimp to coordinate it all.
The aeronautical engineers at Australia's Skylifter have come up with a way to transport 700 times what a heavy cargo helicopter can: fix it to a blimp. The massive disc is almost 500 feet across, and its flying saucer-like shape makes it less susceptible to wind while hauling 150 tons.
Sir David King, who you know is a big deal because dude's knighted (and he's director of the Smith School of Enterprise and Environment at the University of Oxford), sees a different method of cargo delivery becoming a reality in the near future: cargo blimps.