The low carbon idea is a frivolous fashion, but could airships take some freight from container ships? Seems unlikely but there are visions here of giant caravans of airships lifting into jetstreams and travelling perpetually eastwards. And there are already models competing for start up funds.
Airships use a lot less fuel than jets do, but a lot more helium, which is a point that gets a mention, but not much of an answer.
Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, The Telegraph
A Boeing 747 requires at least 70 tonnes of aviation fuel to cross the Atlantic. Mr Handley says his ARH 50 model has the same cargo payload but needs just five tonnes of fuel for the same journey, yet can still reach 300 km/h at high altitude.
Airships can land anywhere there is a flat space — they don’t need the runways and airports. They can get closer to their destination. Even landing on a river.
An academic paper from the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis In Austria proposes using the Jet Stream to transport cargo on transcontinental routes without any need for power beyond the initial lift and descent. The cargo ships would float on high winds above 40,000 feet at an average speed of 160 km/h, displacing fleets of container shipping at sea. The study claims that they would cut fuel use by 96pc.
The circular flow would always be from West to East – Shanghai to Los Angeles, New York to London, or Frankfurt to Mumbai – rotating in a perennial circuit. It would take eight days to cross half the world by the northern Jet Stream, and seven days by the southern route, beating maritime shipping on time as well as emissions.
These unmanned super-Hindenburgs controlled by artificial intelligence could be over a mile long, spectral airships passing far overhead in caravans along regulated bands near the troposphere, emitting no sound or CO2.
Is there enough helium in the world to sustain a big airship industry?
We know a low carbon fantasy (with subsidies) can support an uncompetitive industry for a long time. But do airships make sense without the subsidy?