Imagine flying around the world in a giant airship, powered by nothing but the sun and hydrogen, without emitting greenhouse gases or making any noise. Sounds like a sci-fi fantasy, right? Well, not anymore. Meet Solar Airship One, the ambitious project that aims to make this dream a reality by 2026.
What is Solar Airship One?
Solar Airship One is a rigid airship that measures 495 feet (151 meters) in length and has a helium volume of 53,000 cubic meters. It is covered with 4,800 square meters of solar film, which generates electricity during the day to power the electric propulsion system and store excess energy in fuel cells. At night, the fuel cells convert hydrogen into electricity, allowing the airship to fly continuously without fossil fuels.
The airship is designed to be versatile and adaptable, with 15 individually controlled gas envelopes that enable precise maneuvering even in adverse weather conditions. It also has a spacious cabin that can accommodate up to 12 passengers and crew and a cargo bay that can carry up to 10 tons of payload.
Who is behind Solar Airship One?
Solar Airship One is the brainchild of Euro Airship, a French company that specializes in developing innovative and sustainable airships for various applications. The company was founded in 2009 by Jean-François Chanut, a former Airbus engineer who has been passionate about airships since his childhood.
Euro Airship has partnered with several leading companies and organizations to support the Solar Airship One project, such as Capgemini, Groupe La Poste, Orange, CNES (the French space agency), and ESA (the European Space Agency). The project also benefits from the expertise and experience of some renowned personalities, such as:
- Michel Tognini is a former astronaut who flew on two space shuttle missions and served as the head of the European Astronaut Centre.
- Dorine Bourneton was a paraplegic pilot who became the first disabled woman to obtain a professional pilot license and perform aerobatic flights.
- Bertrand Piccard, an adventurer and environmentalist, completed the first round-the-world flight in a balloon and a solar-powered airplane.
These three exceptional individuals will be part of the crew that will pilot Solar Airship One on its historic world tour.