In a further sign that airships are making a comeback, the first model of what is now the world's largest airship has been recently launched. The Bullet 580 measures 235 feet (more than 71 meters) in length, more than 40 feet longer than the Goodyear blimp (though not nearly as large as airships of the past such as the Hindenburg or the USS Macon).
Compared to heavier-than-air aircraft, airships are relatively slow, lumbering vehicles. But what they lack in speed they can more than make up for in the time they are able to stay aloft. At present, the Bullet 580 can stay aloft for more than 48 hours, and it is expected it will eventually be able to remain in flight for more than a week. The Bullet 580 can fly at faster than lumbering speeds, as well - it can go up to 80 mph (129 kph) and has a cruising speed of 35 to 40 mph (55 to 65 kph).
The ability to stay in the air for long periods of time is useful for both military as well as civilian uses. A high-altitude airship acting as a 'stratellite' fills a gap between conventional aircraft and satellites. The airship is orders of magnitude less expensive to launch than a satellite would be. It is capable of carrying a payload of up to 2000 pounds (905 kg) to an altitude of 20,000 feet (6,100 meters). Applications for such long-duration airships include use for surveilance in defense and security applications, survey of natural resources, agriculture, and forest fires, and telecommunications.
The Bullet 580 is expected to have a price of roughly $8 million.
written by James Bond, June 11, 2010
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