The floating future of air cargo

A HELIUM-propelled hybrid airship, which can carry a maximum payload of 200,000kg, about 80 per cent more than a 747 freighter, could soon be on the horizon.

UK Lighter-Than-Air (LTA) technology company Hybrid Air Vehicles says its prototype will be flying this summer.

The 50-feet long vessel has attracted interest from the US military, which has committed £300 million (US$465.7 million) to the venture, as well as mining and petroleum firms, all of which see value in an air cargo alternative which does not need an airport.

The company is launching a family of hybrid air vehicles, known as SkyCat, with payloads spanning 20 to 1,000 tons, operating at heights up to 10,000ft at speeds between 90 and 120 knots, with endurance up to five days.

The SkyCat can be configured as a passenger airship, an ultra-heavy cargo ship and as an airborne surveillance platform. While the airship can be controlled remotely, piloted flights are likely and the vessels are said to be able to fly for three weeks at a time without landing.

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