Like the man says, there’s something absolutely beautiful about an airship. Humankind, not content to be bound either by gravity or by girth, conquered the air over a hundred years ago after dreaming of it for centuries prior. Of course, over the years, air travel – especially in airships – has endured its fair share of tragedy.
However, as fuel becomes increasingly scarce and carbon emissions increasingly taboo, innovations are still being made in all things aeronautic. Take, for example, Project Sol’R. Birthed and nurtured by students from several schools, the Project has created the world’s first solar-powered blimp, the Nephelios. It’s 22 meters long, 5.5 meters wide, can travel upwards of 40 km/h, and is powered by solar cells which generate up to 2.4 kilowatts of energy. Aside from the CO2 exhaled by the pilot, Nephelios emits absolutely zero carbon.
As reported by Switched, the goal of the project is less to inspire a mass exodus to the skies in solar-powered blimps and more to show that low-to-no carbon emission technology is possible and can be utilized even in larger vehicles.
Helium-hefted aircraft – like the balloon launched from Antarctica to detect neutrinos - are currently used widely for scientific research. Because of this, according to Project Sol’R co-founder Arnaud Vaillant (via Greendesignbriefs):
In the near future we would like Nephelios to be used for scientific missions and surveillance. In the longer term and after improvements, the airship will also have applications in the transport of freight, aerial observation, tourism, and telecommunications.
Good luck to Project Sol’R and the mission of a brighter, cleaner future in transportation science.