High flying demand or bust?
Plus, they’re one of the most environmentally friendly options available. Emitting far less greenhouse gas than traditional cargo planes, airships offer businesses a greener way to transport goods. And it’s the worldwide push for sustainability and environmental responsibility that has many aviation experts eyeing this market.
Brady Soule, co-founder of Helios Airships, stresses this point, explaining that airships offer manufacturers and freight forwarders a viable way to reduce their ecological footprint. “Imagine people saving the environment from millions of pounds of pollutants from trucks and ships every year,” Soule muses. He also envisions a future with less-crowded highways and a decreased dependency on fuel, thanks to fewer freight trucks.
Even Holguin-Veras can’t dispute this merit, although he’s quick to present a counter-argument. “Well, they may have a low carbon footprint, but if customers don’t want to use them, then it’s [irrelevant],” he says.
Soule disagrees wholeheartedly with Holguin-Veras’ assesment. Although he acknowledges that airships do have a few hurdles to overcome — namely developing efficient landing systems and dealing with helium loss — he calls these aircraft “the future of freight transportation.” He says his company was also careful to consider these issues when designing its flagship product, the C60 cargo airship, with a capacity of 60 tonnes. “Our last big issue was generally creating an airship that could handle the weight of all that freight,” Soule says. “There are still some issues to iron out, but I’m sure we can solve them in short order.”
Soule says utilizing a cargo airship is also fiscally sound. The C60 “can carry freight anywhere in the world for mere pennies per tonne-mile. [That’s] far better than what any other mode of transport or company can offer,” he asserts.
Purdy shares Soule’s optimism about the cargo airship market, although he continues to endorse traditional freight transportation. Instead of cargo airships replacing freighters and conventional ships, he sees them “augmenting” current methods. He also believes their unique design is advantageous to transporting freight.
“Hybrid aircraft operating characteristics are different from other aircraft, but the differences are not drawbacks; they are enablers,” Purdy says. “The ability to land on any relatively flat surface, for example, including on the water, enables large-scale cargo delivery to areas that can’t be reached today in a cost-effective way.”
Soule believes the possibilities for cargo airships are endless. In addition to saving companies a significant amount of money compared to traditional cargo planes, he calls airships “superior in every single way over the status quo.”
“Airships are a win-win for both sides,” Soule maintains. “It’s time the world saw this and started to see airships in another light — and we plan to lead the way.”