Zeppelin Comeback
1:26 pm
Thu May 30, 2013

A New Kind Of Airship May Herald Return To The Age Of Dirigibles

The Aeroscraft.
Credit Aeros

The 1920s and 1930s are sometimes called "the age of the dirigible." Dirigibles were giant, steerable blimps and zeppelins, and they used to be a popular way to transport crowds of people from place to place. But then there was the fiery Hindenburg disaster. And during wars airplanes could easily shoot them down. After that airships were pretty much reduced to flying above football games and other kinds of surveillance.

Audio from a broadcast of the Hindenburg disaster in 1937

A Persistent Problem Overcome

The 1937 Hindenburg disaster played a role in the decline of airships

Dirigibles never regained popularity because of a basic problem: they could only dock at special places where they could be tied down. Otherwise, they'd spring up into the air the moment you off loaded the cargo.

Now engineers have overcome that problem by simply compressing the helium upon landing. It's such a simple fix that its inventors are kicking themselves for not having thought of it sooner, and because dirigibles can lift extremely heavy loads much more efficiently than airplanes, the new airship's inventors believe we could see a new age of dirigibles.

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