Airlander 10 is 302 feet long — large enough to hold about 14 of the first plane the Wright Brothers flew — and full of helium.
The airship, built by British company Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV) and originally funded by the U.S. government, is nearing its first takeoff after the UK provided financing to complete the project. The first test flights are set for later this year.
“The sole problems existing old-style airships had [were] having lots of ground crew, limited ability to carry payloads and to be susceptible to weather conditions,” HAV head of partnerships and communications Chris Daniels told CNN. “We solved all those problems with a new concept — a hybrid aircraft. So a mix between a wing and an airship.”
The Airlander 10 can carry 10 tons, hence the name, and fly for five days at full capacity. The fabric is a a combinations of carbon fiber, kevlar and mylar, according to HAV. To get off the ground, 325-hp V8 diesel engines power the propellers; the cockpit is designed for one pilot and one observer.
The U.S. had originally funded the project with military use in mind, but HAV is thinking commercial. Current drone technology makes more sense than a giant airship for military surveillance, according to CNN.
A giant zeppelin-shaped craft may seem like something from ages past, but HAV is hopeful it can bring airships back in style.