Tag Archives: Skylifter

Modern Airships – Part 2

Peter Lobner, updated 12 November 2023 (post-Rev. 5)

1. Introduction

Modern Airships is a three-part document that contains an overview of modern airship technology in Part 1 and links in Parts 1, 2 and 3 to more than 240 individual articles on historic and advanced airship designs.  This is Part 2.  Here are the links to the other two parts:

You’ll find a consolidated Table of Contents (as of Rev 5) for all three parts at the following link.  This should help you navigate the large volume of material in the three documents.

  • Consolidated TOC:  Coming soon

Modern Airships – Part 2 begins with a summary graphic table identifying the airships addressed in this part, and concludes by providing links to 113 individual articles on those airships.  A downloadable pdf copy of Part 2 (as of Rev 5) is available here:

  • Part 2 main body & tables:  Coming soon

Each of the linked articles can be individually downloaded.

If you have any comments or wish to identify errors in these documents, please send me an e-mail to:  [email protected].

I hope you’ll find the Modern Airships series to be informative, useful, and different from any other single document on this subject.

Best regards,

Peter Lobner

12 November 2023

Record of revisions to Part 2

  • Original Modern Airships post, 26 August 2016: addressed 14 airships in a single post.
  • Expanded the Modern Airships post and split it into three parts, 18 August 2019: Part 2 included 25 articles
  • Part 2, Revision 1, 21 December 2020: Added 2 new articles on Walden Aerospace. Part 2 now had 27 articles
  • Part 2, Revision 2, 3 April 2021: Added 35 new articles, split the original variable buoyancy propulsion article into three articles, and updated all of the original articles. Also updated and reformatted the summary graphic table.  Part 2 now had 64 articles.
  • Part 2, Revision 3, 9 September 2021:  Updated 7 articles. Added category for “thermal (hot air) airships” and added pages for them in the summary graphic table. Part 2 still had 64 articles.
  • Part 2, Revision 4, 11 February 2022: Added 26 new articles, expanded the graphic tables and updated 12 existing articles. Part 2 now had 90 articles.
  • Part 2, Revision 5, 10 March 2022: Added 1 new article, split rigid & semi-rigid airships in the graphic tables, and updated 52 existing articles. With this revision, all Part 2 linked articles have been updated in February or March 2022. Part 2 now has 91 articles.

Since Rev. 5 was posted, the following additions and updates have been made in the online version of Part 2.

New articles:

  • Strasa.Tech – HAPS platforms (30 May 2022)
  • China – Hybrid airship for airborne electromagnetic (AEM) surveying (15 June 2022)
  • Aere Airships (22 July 2022)
  • Cloudline – autonomous cargo drone airship (16 October 2022)
  • China – Cloud One – 5G base station aerostat (19 October 2022)
  • China – Jimu No 1 – high altitude aerostat (19 October 2022)
  • China – Shanghai Jiao Tong University – research airships (19 October 2022)
  • China – Suzhou Ark Aviation Technology Co. Ltd. – drone blimps (19 October 2022)
  • Challenger Aerospace Systems – drone blimps (29 October 2022)
  • AirbineTM  Renewable Energy Systems (ARES) – Airborne Wind Turbine (AWT) (11 January 2023)
  • ADASI – tethered aerostats (19 June 2023)
  • Aeerstatica Energy Airships – tethered aerostat wind generator (19 June 2023)
  • Aero-T – SkyGuard tethered aerostat (19 June 2023)
  • Airborne Industries – tethered aerostats & parachute training balloons (19 June 2023)
  • Augur RosAeroSystems – tethered aerostats (19 June 2023)
  • China – Hangzhou Gauss Inflatable Tech Co., Ltd – drone blimps & tethered aerostats (19 June 2023)
  • DRDO ADRDE – tethered aerostats & small unmanned airship (19 June 2023)
  • Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) – HAAS tethered aerostat (19 June 2023)
  • Jülich Institute – FieldShip drone blimp (19 June 2023)
  • Otonom Teknoloji – tethered aerostats & drone airship (19 June 2023)
  • RT LTA Systems Ltd – tethered aerostats (19 June 2023)
  • Utah Aereon Corp. – Aereon SA-1 variable buoyancy propelled airship (9 September 2023)
  • LTA Windpower Inc. – PowerShip airborne wind turbine (13 October 2023)
  • AVEALTO – Wireless Infrastructure Platforms (WIPs) (27 October 2023)
  • Lockheed – Starship SRA hybrid thermal small rigid airship (27 October 2023)
  • Roy P. Gibbens – AirLighter and cycloidal propellers (27 October 2023)

Updated articles:

  • Atlas LTA Advanced Technology, Ltd. (2 June 2022)
  • Aérial Concept Group & Transoceans (3 September 2022)
  • Aero-Nautic Services & Engineering (A-NSE) (3 September 2022)
  • Strasa Tech – HAPS platforms (4 September 2022)
  • H2 Clipper (11 October 2022)
  • Buoyant Aircraft Systems International (BASI) – MB-30T & -100T (9 January 2023)
  • Galaxy Unmanned Systems – blimps (9 January 2023)
  • A-NSE (19 June 2023)
  • Airstar – airships, tethered aerostats & stratospheric balloons (19 June 2023)
  • China – Shanghai Jiao Tong University – research airships (19 June 2023)
  • Dirisolar (19 June 2023)
  • Helios – SolarAirShip – High Speed Solar Airship (HSSA) (19 June 2023)
  • Hemeria (former CNIM Air Space) (19 June 2023)
  • Phoenix – gravity-propelled drone airship (28 July 2023)
  • Solomon Andrews – Aereon & Aereon 2 (5 August 2023)
  • Cloudline – UAV cargo blimp (5 August 2023)
  • Walden Aerospace / LTAS – Electro-kinetic (EK) propulsion airships (12 August 2023)
  • Walden Aerospace / LTAS – Variable buoyancy propelled airships / aircraft (12 August 2023)
  • Euro Airship – rigid airships (17 August 2023)
  • Stratosyst – Skyrider HAPS (27 September 2023)
  • MOVED FROM PART 1: Voliris airships (5 October 2023)
  • MOVED FROM PART 1: GEFA-Flug, APEX & Skyacht thermal (hot air) airships (5 October 2023)
  • UPDATED ALL PART 2 GRAPHIC TABLES (12 November 2023)

2. Specific airships in Part 2

The airships reviewed in Modern Airships – Part 2 are summarized in the following set of graphic tables that are organized into the categories listed below.

Within each category, each page of the table is titled with the name of the category and is numbered (P2.x), where P2 = Modern Airships – Part 2 and x = the sequential number of the page in that category.  For example, “Stratospheric airships / HAPS (P2.2)” is the page title for the second page in the “Stratospheric airships / HAPS” category in Part 2.  There also are stratospheric airships / HAPS addressed in Modern Airships – Part 1.

  • Conventional airships
    • Rigid airships
    • Semi-rigid airships
    • Non-rigid airships (blimps)
  • Semi-buoyant hybrid airships
  • Semi-buoyant aircraft / airship hybrids
  • Variable buoyancy airships
    • Variable buoyancy / fixed volume airships
    • Variable buoyancy / variable vacuum airships
    • Variable buoyancy / variable volume airships
    • Variable buoyancy propulsion airships / aircraft
  • Hybrid thermal-gas (Rozière) airships
  • Thermal (hot air) airships
  • Helicopter / airship hybrids
  • Stratospheric airships / High Altitude Platforms (HAPS)
  • Electro-kinetically (EK) propelled airships
  • Personal airships
  • LTA drones
  • Unpowered aerostats
    • Tethered aerostats (kite balloons)
    • Tethered LTA wind turbines
    • Tethered heavy load lifter balloons
    • Free flying balloons 

Links to the individual Part 2 articles on these airships are provided in Section 3.  Some individual articles cover more than one particular airship.

Among the airships described in Part 2, the following advanced airship seems to be the best candidate for achieving type certification in the next five years:

  • Flying Whales (France): The LCA60T rigid cargo airship was significantly redesigned in 2021, which resulted in a considerable schedule delay. In March 2023, Flying Whales reported that they expected to complete construction and flight testing of the first production prototype in the 2024 – 2025 timeframe, followed by EASA certification and start of industrial production in 2026.  The project appears to be well funded from diverse international sources in France, Canada, China and Morocco. Full-scale production facilities are planned in France, China and Canada and commercial airship operating infrastructure is being planned.
  • Hybrid Air Vehicles (UK): The Airlander 10 commercial passenger / cargo hybrid airship is being developed by HAV  based on their experience with the Airlander 10 prototype, which flew from 2016 to 2017. In 2022, Valencia, Spain-based Air Nostrum, which operates regional flights, ordered 10 Airlander 10 aircraft, with delivery scheduled for 2026. Also in 2022, Highlands and Islands Airport (HIAL) sponsored a study for introducing the Airlander 10 in Scotland. In April 2023, the regional UK government of South Yorkshire concluded a financial agreement that is expected to lead to the Airlander 10 being manufactured in Doncaster, in the north of England.  Things are moving in the right direction. In March 2023, HAV reported that manufacturing of the first production airship will start in 2023, followed by first flight in 2025 and service entry in 2027.

The following airship manufacturers in Part 2 have advanced designs and they seem to be ready to manufacture a first prototype if they can arrange funding: 

  • Aerovehicles (USA / Argentina): They claim their AV-10 non-rigid, multi-mission blimp can carry a 10 metric ton payload and be type certified within existing regulations for blimps. This should provide a lower-risk route to market for an airship with an operational capability that does not exist today.
  • Atlas LTA Advanced Technology (Israel): After acquiring the Russian firm Augur RosAeroSystems in 2018, Atlas is continuing to develop the ATLANT variable buoyancy, fixed volume heavy lift airship.  They also are developing a new family of non-rigid Atlas-6 and -11 blimps and unmanned variants.  However, the development plans and schedules have not yet been made public.
  • BASI (Canada): The firm has a well-developed design in the MB-30T and a fixed-base operating infrastructure design that seems to be well suited for their primary market in the Arctic.
  • Euro Airship (France):  The firm reports having production-ready plans for their rigid airship designs. In June 2023, Euro Airship announced plans to build and fly a large rigid airship known as Solar Airship One around the world in 2026.
  • Millennium Airship (USA & Canada): The firm has well developed designs for their SF20T and SF50T SkyFreighters, has identified its industrial team for manufacturing, and has a business arrangement with SkyFreighter Canada, Ltd., which would become a future operator of SkyFreighter airships in Canada.  In addition, their development plan defines the work needed to build and certify a prototype and a larger production airship.
  • Varialift (UK):  The factory in France and the ARH-PT prototype are under construction, but the schedule for completing the prototype, once planned for 2019, continues to slip, primarily because of tenuous funding. Without a stronger funding stream, the future schedule is unpredictable.

The promising airships in Part 2, listed above, will be competing in the worldwide airship market with candidates identified in Modern Airships – Part 1, which potentially could enter the market in the same time frame. Among the new airships described in Part 1, the following advanced airship seems to be the best candidates for achieving type certification in the next five years:

  • LTA Research and Exploration (USA): Pathfinder 1 rigid airship, which is expected to make its first flight in 2023. The program appears to be well funded. 

The following airship manufacturers in Part 1 have advanced designs and they seem to be ready to manufacture a first commercial prototype if they can arrange adequate funding: 

  • AT2 Aerospace (USA): Their Z1 hybrid airship formerly was known as the Lockheed Martin LMH-1. In May 2023, Lockheed Martin exited the hybrid airship business without completing type certification and transitioned that business, including intellectual property and related assets, to the newly formed, commercial company ATAerospace.  In June, Straightline Aviation (a former LMH-1 customer) signed a Letter of Intent with ATAerospace, signaling commercial support for the Z1 hybrid airship.  
  • Aeros (USA): It seems that Aeros has been ready for more than a decade to begin type certification and manufacture a prototype of their Aeroscraft ML866 / Aeroscraft Gen 2 variable buoyancy / fixed volume airship.  The firm has reported successful subsystem tests.

For decades, there have been many ambitious projects that intended to operate an airship as a pseudo-satellite, carrying a heavy payload while maintaining a geo-stationary position in the stratosphere on a long-duration mission (days, weeks, to a year or more).  None were successful.  This led NASA in 2014 to plan the 20-20-20 airship challenge: 20 km altitude, 20 hour flight, 20 kg payload.  The challenge never occurred, but it highlighted the difficulty of developing an airship as a persistent pseudo-satellite.  The most promising new stratospheric airship manufacturers identified in Part 2 are:

  • Sceye Inc. (USA):  This small firm is developing and, since 2017, has been flight testing mid-size, multi-mission stratospheric airships. The firm also has built a new headquarters and manufacturing facility in New Mexico. Short-duration stratospheric communications system flight tests were conducted in 2021. A long duration test should be coming soon.
  • Thales Alenia Space (France): The firm is developing the multi-mission Stratobus.  Their latest round of funding from France’s defense procurement agency calls for a full-scale, autonomous Stratobus demonstrator airship to fly by the end of 2023, five years later than another demonstrator that was ordered in the original 2016 Stratobus contract, but not built. Time will tell if Thales Alenia Space can meet the new schedule with the available funding.

China remains an outlier after the 2015 flight of the Yuanmeng stratospheric airship developed by      Beijing Aerospace Technology Co. & BeiHang.  The current status of the Chinese stratospheric airship development program is not described in public documents.

Among the many smaller airships identified in Part 2, the following manufacturers could have their airships flying by the mid 2020s if adequate funding becomes available.

  • Dirisolar (France): The firm has a well-developed design for their five passenger DS 1500, which is intended initially for local air tourism, but can be configured for other missions.  When funding becomes available, it seems that they’re ready to go.
  • A-NSE (France):  The firm offers a range of aerostat and small airships, several with a novel tri-lobe, variable volume hull design.  Such aerostats are operational now, and a manned tri-lobe airship could be flying later in the 2020s.

There has been a proliferation of small LTA drone blimps and other small LTA drone vehicles.  Some were developed initially for military surveillance applications, but all are configurable and could be deployed in a range of applications. Some enterprising LTA drone developers also are developing value-adding applications and are offering information services, rather than simply selling a drone to be operated by a customer.

The 2020s will be an exciting time for the airship industry.  We’ll finally get to see if the availability of several different heavy-lift airships with commercial type certificates will be enough to open a new era in airship transportation. Aviation regulatory agencies need to help reduce investment risk by reducing regulatory uncertainty and putting in place an adequate regulatory framework for the wide variety of advanced airships being developed.  Customers with business cases for airship applications need to step up, place firm orders, and then begin the pioneering task of employing their airships and building a worldwide airship transportation network with associated ground infrastructure.  This will require consistent investment over the next decade or more before a basic worldwide airship transportation network is in place to support the significant use of commercial airships in cargo and passenger transportation and other applications. Perhaps then we’ll start seeing the benefits of airships as a lower environmental impact mode of transportation and a realistic alternative to fixed-wing aircraft, seaborne cargo vessels and heavy, long-haul trucks.

3. Links to the individual articles

The following links will take you to the individual articles that address all of the airships identified in the preceding graphic table.

Note that a few of these articles address more than one airship design from the same manufacturer / designer and they may be in different categories (i.e., Augur RosAeroSystems, Atlas LTA Advanced Technology). These designs are listed separately in the above graphic tables and in the following index. The links listed below will take you to the same article.

Conventional rigid airships:

Conventional semi-rigid airships:

Conventional non-rigid airships (blimps):

Semi-buoyant hybrid airships:

Semi-buoyant airplane / airship hybrids:

Variable buoyancy, fixed volume airships:

Variable buoyancy / variable vacuum airships:

Variable buoyancy, variable volume airships:

Variable buoyancy propulsion airships:

Hybrid thermal-gas (Rozière) airships:

Thermal (hot air) airships:

Helicopter / airship hybrids:

Stratospheric airships / High Altitude Platforms (HAPS):

Electro-kinetically (EK) propelled airships:

Personal airships:

LTA drones:

Tethered aerostats (Kite balloons):

Tethered LTA wind turbines:

Tethered heavy-lift cargo balloons:

Free-flying balloons: