To help address the problem of bringing heavy equipment into regions with poor infrastructure, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics has been working on developing a hybrid airship for more than 20 years. This week, they have announced a breakthrough. Hybrid Enterprises, LLC, acting on Lockheed Martin’s behalf, announced at the Paris Air Show that it will be taking orders for this new class of aircraft with delivery as soon as early 2018.
More than two-thirds of the world’s land area and more than half the world’s population have no direct access to paved roads. The airships would be the answer for affordable and safe delivery of cargo and personnel anywhere, weather permitting, with little or no infrastructure. “Lockheed Martin’s Hybrid Airships will significantly reduce the cost and environmental impact of remote operations, making it possible to reach locations previously thought inaccessible,” said Rob Binns, CEO of Hybrid Enterprises. Burning less than one-tenth the fuel of a helicopter per ton, the hybrid airship will be much more sustainable.
The technologies required for hybrid airships are already mature and have been demonstrated in-flight by Lockheed Martin’s P-791, a fully functional, manned flight demonstrator. Orlando Carvalho, executive vice-president of Lockheed Martin, said all required planning steps for FAA certification of a new class of aircraft are completed, and the company is ready to start building its first commercial model.
Work is currently underway on the 20-ton variant at the Lockheed Martin Aeronautics facility in Palmdale, U.S..