Originally devised as a US military project, the Airlander is poised to reinvent long-distance aviation in a number of areas, providing an "ultra-long endurance platform that will be useful in a huge number of roles from search and rescue, to border control, coastguarding, crowd monitoring, security, filming, academic research and filming," according to HAV. It's a 302ft ship that relies on 1.3 million cubic feet of helium to achieve liftoff -- yes, it's a gassy butt that flies -- and it can reach altitudes up to 16,000 feet while traveling at a top speed of 90 mph.
Eventually, Airlander will be pivotal in point-to-point cargo transportation between remote areas, especially on long-haul operations, as it can stay afloat for more than two weeks at a time; it's designed to carry heavier loads than other aircraft while using less fuel. Also, it looks like a giant ass.
It's successful return to the skies, achieved during a 180-minute test flight on May 10, cemented a number of milestones, such as establishing basic handling characteristics of Airlander and collecting data related to flight performance. HAV staff were pretty jazzed about the accomplishment, especially following last year's disappointment, which caused major damage to the aircraft that required repairs: "This is a great testament to the tenacity and ingenuity of the team of engineers at Hybrid Air Vehicles, who are continually pushing the boundaries of aviation with this amazing aircraft,” said Technical Director, Mike Durham.