Aviation’s past points to some innovative iterations
The vestige of Airships is great and full of promise
Sergey Brin commits to building a 400′ high tech Airship
Several years ago an extraordinarily successful entrepreneur, and major aviation enthusiast was having coffee in Akron, OH with an airship engineer.
Attracted to the lure of the golden age of dirigibles, but clearly aware of the technology advances, one of caffeinated conversationalists, Google co-founder Sergey Brin. declared “… we are going to be able to build airships that are faster, that are safer, more environmentally friendly and have greater capabilities than any airship built before.“ From that general vision, emerged a 400’ airship with “deep ring” internal structure of titanium framing and carbon-fiber tubing, hard-wearing outer covering, an all-electric propulsion system, a state-of-art avionics suite (including real time WX information to avoid incompatible winds…)—a ship designed to carry about 20 tons and be able to traverse as many as 10,000 miles.
In 2017 Brin then created Lighter Than Air Research (LTA) to transform this vision into reality. LTA, based in Akron, employs about 70 employees and expects to grow to 200 in the near future. Led by Alan Weston, CEO a former aerospace engineer and director of programs at the NASA Ames Research Center. His team is working through all of the design, FAA certification, production (updating the Akron Airdock to current standards), maintenance manuals, training and all the myriad of associated functions needed to bring Brin’s airship to the air. LTA is also being supported by University of Akron, the city of Akron and the Development Finance Authority of Summit County.
Weston noted “LTA is standing on the shoulders of its predecessors here at the Airdock…Because of their efforts, we are going to be able to build airships that are faster, that are safer, more environmentally friendly and have greater capabilities than any airship built before.”
This local news report conveys Akron’s excitement about the Pathfinder project. https://youtu.be/yQ5Eh4VDgpw
While early speculation pointed to the airship being a luxury aerial yacht, LTA’s stated goal is to build huge airships to provide humanitarian aid in places where conventional transportation can’t reach, such as in the aftermath of a disaster.
Wed, June 1, 2022, 1:00 PM·2 min read
Luxury blimps appear to be in the midst of a revival, but Sergey Brin wants to ensure they’re bigger and better than before.
The Google co-founder, now worth more than $90 billion, has been quietly working away on a massive new airship that will be the longest to hit the skies in almost a century.
Brin, who has long had an affinity for all types of aircraft, established a company called Lighter Than Air Research (LTA) back in 2017 to develop the next generation of airships. LTA’s inaugural model is now in the final planning stages at a facility in Akron, Ohio, according to a report in the Akron Beacon Journal.
Christened Pathfinder 1, the new airship is a far cry from the zeppelins of 100 years ago. It is expected to measure 400 feet from tip to tail, while a third iteration dubbed Pathfinder 3 will stretch about 600 feet. That means the proposed Pathfinder models will be the biggest airship built in the country since 1931 when Goodyear completed the 785-foot USS Macon and USS Akron for the US Navy.
In terms of construction, the Pathfinder’s “deep ring” internal structure will be made of Kilwell Fibrelab’s lightweight carbon-fiber tubing. It’s this rigid framework that distinguishes the airship from a blimp. The sturdy skeleton will be wrapped in a hard-wearing outer covering that will make the balloon plenty durable.
Like the Macon and Akron before it, the Pathfinder models will run on lighter-than-air helium. It’s non-combustible and far safer than the dangerously flammable hydrogen that was used in the ill-fated, 803-foot Hindenburg. The all-electric propulsion system, meanwhile, will be powered initially by batteries but could run on hydrogen fuel cells in the future. The latter will see the airship produce zero emissions.
Again like the Macon and Akron, the Pathfinder will be built at the gigantic Akron Airdock. LTA is actually in the process of acquiring this 364,000-square-foot facility, as well as recruiting a crew for the new endeavor. The company says the airships will be primarily used to bring humanitarian aid (food and supplies) to remote areas that are difficult to access via traditional aircraft and vehicles.
Pathfinder 1 is expected to take shape later this year, according to the journal, with the first test flight slated for 2023.
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