Wednesday, March 5, 2014

[defensesystems] Abandoned by Army, world’s longest aircraft turns up in UK

A 300-foot-long aircraft originally developed for, by then dropped by, the Army was recently re-unveiled in Great Britain as the world’s largest aircraft.

The HAV 304 “Airlander” is an amalgamation of airship, airplane, helicopter and hovercraft features, and is referred to as a hybrid air vehicle. While the aircraft most closely resembles an airship, or dirigible, and is filled with helium, the shape of the balloon allows the vehicle to generate lift. It is expected to be able to stay aloft for three weeks and carry up to 22,000 pounds of cargo.
The entire aerostat, a terms that encompasses all tethered and free flying lighter than air craft, can also be piloted remotely, making it the largest unmanned aerial vehicle as well.
Hybrid Air Vehicles, based in Cardington, England, sees the utility of the vehicle in terms of its operational flexibility. The Airlander will be able to conduct conventional take-off and landing and vertical take-off and landing on both land and water. In the future, the blimp may be used to deliver humanitarian aid, provide communications, broadcast sporting events and conduct surveillance missions.
Development of the aircraft began as a U.S. Army project, and a surveillance configuration is one of two available options for the Airlander, the other being a civil heavy lift version. The surveillance vehicle can operate at up to 16,000 feet for up to five days as a manned vehicle.

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