Airships – A Relic from Days Gone By or The Future of Air Transportation



Airships are again front page news in the freight press. Have they learned from the mistakes of the past or will they just follow the path to failure that others have trodden before them.

I am old enough to remember the publicity from the 1980s when Airship Industries were going to revolutionise air transportation with their various airship designs. The result was the loss of several million pounds and the company closing down.

So why would the airship succeed now when it failed so badly before?

Firstly attitudes have changed. In the 80s Concorde was flying and speed was king. Today we embrace green technology, can we really transport cargo around the world without destroying the planet? It would be nice to think so.

To succeed the airship must find a niche and perform well, otherwise with a speed of under 70 miles per hour it will always be viewed as slower than airfreight and more expensive than seafreight.

How will the airships integrate into the more traditional multimodal transportation networks? Will they accept air freight or sea freight containers or will they have a totally new type of container that does not link with either?

My conclusion: With a modest payload of up to 20 tonnes only the most remote sites would be viable. But once a site becomes profitable, it is human nature to develop and exploit it. Towns and roads will be built and the site will no longer be remote, conventional transportation will then take over. Maybe they aren’t as green as they seem.