Extreme Dirigibles for the Modern Age "Would you like to ride in my beautiful balloon... We could float among the stars together, you and I... The world's a nicer place in my beautiful balloon... We can sing a song and sail along the silver sky... For we can fly!" ("Up, Up and Away" by the Fifth Dimension)
Festo Air-Ray, Inspired by Nature
Air_Ray flying structure (concept airship) mimics the movements of manta-ray (and also reminds us of war-bird machines in "Sky Captain: World of Tomorrow"). This is the ultimate expression of bionics: bringing the fluidity of movement and effortless dynamics, found in nature, to our technological (even if slightly futuristic) application.
Make sure to check out computer flight simulation video here. By adjusting the angle of wings the craft can fly forward, backwards and change direction fluidly and naturally.
Watch its undulating movements here, quite hypnotizing:
Millennium Airship company created the revolutionary SkyFreighter., which is designed to lift really heavy cargoes and transport machinery and equipment intact, without the need of re-assembly. It can haul 500 plus tons and has speeds averaging 100 mph for 6000 miles unrefueled:
Futuristic air wars gain a new dimension if they are fought with (supposedly) obsolete giant airships and military zeppelins. Seen in many a pulp during science fiction Gold Age of the 30s and "the age of wonder", the vision persisted into the 70s - witness Michael Moorcock's novel "The Warlord of the Air", where the Edwardian technology takes to the air in a sort of precursor to steampunk fiction.
or the movie "Zeppelin vs. Pterodactyls" (more info) -
More futuristic visions (some are rarely seen) -
Frank Tinsley drew this image for the 1957 book "Airships in the Atomic Age":
In the early 30s airships "Graf Zeppelin" and "Hindenburg" flew regularly on transatlantic routes between Germany and America. As the movie "Sky Captain" skillfully shown, they did intend to moor to the most prominent skyscrapers:
The observation tower at the top of the Empire State Building was originally intended to be a dock for mooring airships: (read here "how the engineers crowned world's tallest building")
To browse through "scale progression" of airships (many of them hypothetical), head over to this site. It clearly illustrated how "bigger is better" applied to airship really made sense to designers: (note little airplanes underneath them)
US Navy actually built two zeppelin aircraft carriers (see our recent article): USS Macon (info) and USS Akron ZRS-4 (shown below: these tiny dots at the bottom are people)
Akron could carry four airplanes, Macon five, and the further models were designed to carry up to 22 airplanes!
All culminating perhaps in this idea: (see full info at this page)
The idea of a giant ship that can carry "bridges, buildings, fleet of trucks; that eliminates the need for roads, railroads and harbors" was kept alive all throught the 30s and beyond: this book documents a history of the project, dubbed "The Deltoid Pumpkin Seed". Financed by private individuals (presbyterian missionaries), after 12 years and half a million dollars, the Aereon Corporation had a static ship model and plenty of wrecked ones. (read more here)
Aereon 26 strange-looking plane actually took to the sky in 1971:
The company's research, however, opened many paths toward creating stealth airships for the military (some weirdly giving rise to more UFO mythos and spotting):
Moby Air - the Flying Luxury Hotel
Presented in this issue of Popular Science, this brainchild of Worldwide Aeros Corporation has pretty good specs and will carry 288 passengers in ultimate luxury to the cruising altitude of 8000 ft.
In conclusion, we have to say that if the longevity of the name "Zeppelin" is any indication (just witness the undying fortune of the "Led Zeppelin" rock group), we are going to see some embodiment of this dream in a few years; after all skyships make good economical sense (all safety factors notwithstanding) - and the sight of airships flying over the Golden Bridge will be quite commonplace:
"Dark Roasted Blend" - All Kinds of Weird and Wonderful Things, Discovered Daily!"
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