Lincoln academic part of global project to create carbon neutral airships
A Lincoln academic is working on a £4 million global project to create a new golden age of carbon neutral airships.
Professor Paul Stewart is helping to develop the aircraft, which would harness solar power and use hydrogen cells to operate.
The airships would take off and dock with a larger "mothership". The airships would then carry people and freight to a destination before the airship breaks off and lands.
Professor Stewart is the director of the Power and Energy Systems Research Institute, based at the School of Engineering at the University of Lincoln.
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His team is working on the UK's part of collaborative research with countries across the world.
"We have come a long way since the days of Hindenburg, but don't forget that, in their heyday, these aircraft would regularly travel from Europe to the USA and South America," he said. "We are looking at the power systems with the aim of making them completely carbon neutral. Photovoltaic panels will be fitted to the sides of the aircraft to produce hydrogen on board that will then be used for propulsion.
"Technology has come a long way since the golden era of airships. But these days, we don't have any qualms about driving a hybrid car powered by hydrogen cells."
The modern air cruisers would measure 70 metres in height, 350 in diameter and fly at altitudes of eight to 10 miles. They would have a top speed of more than 120 miles an hour and a 12 million mile maximum range.
A scale prototype will be built in 2013 with bids for further funding in 2014. Flight trials will take place in Uruguay.
Annual running costs are estimated at US $24 million, with an aircraft life span of 10 years. Artist impressions on the project website, which resemble a flying saucer, show a spherically-shaped airship balloon with cabins underneath.
Dr Yong Chen, from the University of Hertfordshire – one of the collaborators on the project – said: "The airship concept has evolved from the old concept but the green agenda has been added to it, making it very exciting to be involved in this project."
The UK team also includes engineering designers Engys Ltd.
Richard Pullen, 40, a historian who lives in North Scarle, said: "We have a great tradition of invention and engineering in Lincoln going back hundreds of years.
"With the airship research, we are once again at the forefront of engineering."