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World’s Largest Airship Unveiled

Pathfinder 1 World's Largest Airship
Pathfinder 1, the world’s largest airship. Credit: LTA Research

The world’s largest airship, the massive Pathfinder 1, has now been revealed and is kicking off its initial flight trials.

This enormous blimp is four hundred feet long and almost double the length of the world’s longest plane, the Boeing 747-8 quadjet.

To soar into the sky, the blimp relies on about a million cubic feet of helium and twelve electric motors. It can take off straight up and zip along at speeds of up to seventy-five miles per hour (120km/h), as reported by Daily Mail.

LTA Research, a company supported by Google co-founder Sergey Brin, is the creator of this large airship. The developers are hopeful that such crafts could potentially cut down on the environmental impact of air travel and shipping.

The Pathfinder 1 marks a significant milestone in terms of size, being the most massive aircraft created since the tragic incident involving the eight hundred-foot Hindenburg in 1937. This airship is as big as three Boeing 737s and even outdoes the Stratolaunch plane, which is used to transport rockets into space.

Pathfinder 1 uses non-reactive Helium stored in 13 airbags

Unlike the Hindenburg, which had highly flammable hydrogen, the Pathfinder 1 opts for safe and non-reactive helium stored in thirteen airbags.

Due to helium’s changing prices amid shortages, the cost to fill up the Pathfinder 1 could range from $250,000 (£197,877) to $1 million (£791,500).

These thirteen airbags are secured by a framework of ten thousand carbon fiber-reinforced poles and three thousand titanium hubs, ensuring their stability.

LTA Research utilizes cutting-edge lidar technology to consistently check the gas levels inside the balloon. The whole structure is covered with a synthetic material called Tedlar, which, as per LTA Research, stands up against UV light and fire.

Taking a cue from drone tech, the Pathfinder 1 is designed to be remarkably user-friendly, requiring just one pilot at a time. Moreover, it uses a ‘fly by wire’ joystick system for smooth control.

Pathfinder 1 may transport tons of cargo

Though the Pathfinder 1 has the potential to transport tons of cargo across long distances in the future, at the moment, it is limited to hovering just a few feet above the ground.

As mentioned on LinkedIn by the airship’s designers, LTA Research’s team will be conducting thorough tests on the proof-of-concept airship Pathfinder 1 in the upcoming weeks and months to ensure its safety and reliability.

Since receiving a special airworthiness certificate in September, the Pathfinder 1 has been in the initial stages of flight testing at locations, including Moffet Field, Palo Alto Airport, and parts of the San Francisco Bay.

Pathfinder 1 had its inaugural test flight on September 8th, staying connected to a mobile tripod and hovering just above the ground throughout the test.

Upcoming trials will enable the airship to ascend to 1,500 feet and hover over the waters of the bay.

Under development since 2016, LTA Research is actively working on a more substantial aircraft named the Pathfinder 3.

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