Support balloons for zeppelins

WITH jet fuel projected to pass US$300 per barrel by 2020, support for lighter-than-air freighters is growing.

Boeing and Lockheed Martin, among many other companies, are working on viable designs that would allow helium-filled freighters to be an industry reality within 10 years.

Professor Sir David King of University of Oxford, the former UK government’s chief scientific adviser, said: “This is something I believe is going to happen.”

King added that he didn’t believe airships would replace conventional freighters completely – due to their far slower speed of 125kph (78mph) – but instead would become a viable option between airfreight and ocean. However, with airships using only a fraction of the fuel of conventional freighters taking off and landing and with some of the heavier varieties being able to carry twice the load as a 747, their cost benefit would be attractive to certain operators, shippers and cargoes.

King suggested, since airships do not need the usual infrastructure-heavy cargo airports for loading, less-developed areas, such as inland Africa, could take part in international trade far easier than present.

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