The ship, which is about 18 meters long, is equipped with 12 electric motors and is called Airship 3.0 and can carry up to 14 passengers. Yet the esteemed professor is not a man from the locality. In fact Garapolo leads the R&D of Brin’s company and the ship he purchased is actually the second prototype.
The first one from 2018 was smaller and about 15 meters long, and the experiments were carried out in principle for the simple reason that it is the only place in the world where there is still a dedicated hangar for building airships in the US. In them because of the danger of the hydrogen gas used to operate them.
It now appears that LTA has found the optimal solution. Instead of using cheap, common and explosive hydrogen or helium, safer but rarer and (much) more expensive, the new ships will combine the use of the two gases. Helium for lift and hydrogen for the batteries are based on fuel cells that will power the electric motors. The first commercial model is expected to be launched shortly, according to an IEEE website. The official goal is to use ships to aid disaster-stricken areas, but commercial use is likely to be on the company’s agenda as well.
To manufacture his ships, Brin’s company developed a number of innovations in their field of production. For example, a device on which the skeleton is placed during assembly and which can be rotated to avoid the need to raise production workers to great heights. Another development is the use of 3D printing to produce some of the parts that are not commercially available. Additional parts were purchased from the German company Zeppelin NT, which currently operates airships for passengers between Switzerland and Germany.
The debut flight of Brin’s airship will probably take place from Moffat Field Airport in Silicon Valley where the venture began back in the Google X era, then still a secret research division of the internet giant and now a subsidiary of Alphabet.