The 92m-long, 43.5 m wide part plane, part helicopter, part airship is quite a spectacle. Dubbed the world’s largest aircraft, it can easily dwarf heavyweights such as the Airbus A380 “superjumbo.” it is tad cheaper, at a catalogue price of $31 million compared with $470 million for an A380. it can also carry 10-tonne payload, and is comparable with military transport helicopters such as the boeing CH-47 Chinook, the us Air Force’s pride.
Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV), the company behind the Airlander’s development, has been paid over $100 million to build the airship, minus the top-secret military hardware. it is said that the us Army has invested over $300 million in to the project, in order to create an unmanned airship capable of remaining airborne above conflict zones for 21 days at a time.
The Airlander can stay float over land for weeks at a time, monitoring insurgent activity and surveilling to keep ground troops safe. it can fly out of reach of all, so militants don’t pose problems. it uses helium, rather an hydrogen used by the R101 and the Hindenburg. The hull is made from three layers of fabric, including Vectran, a material five times stronger than steel. it can fly in high winds of up to 80 knots, which is the highest level on the beaufort wind scale, and has top speed of 100mph.