Solar-powered airship will circumnavigate the globe without fuel

In an era where the cry for sustainable and eco-friendly innovations is louder than ever, the Solar Airship One emerges as a beacon of hope for zero-emissions long-distance aviation. This groundbreaking airship is set to circumnavigate the globe, covering about 40,000 km (25,000 miles) in a continuous 20-day flight, all without using traditional fuel sources.

With a length of 151 meters (495 feet), the Solar Airship One is a marvel of modern engineering. Its expansive upper surface, totaling around 4,800 square meters (51,700 sq ft) or nearly the size of an NFL football field, is enveloped in solar film. This expansive solar coverage is designed to power the airship’s electric propulsion systems throughout the day while concurrently generating extra power by splitting water into hydrogen for use at night.

Steered by a triumvirate of exceptional individuals, including former French astronaut Michel Tognini, courageous aerobatic pilot Dorine Bourneton, and the renowned adventurer Bertrand Piccard, the Solar Airship One promises not only to be a technological feat but also a source of inspiration worldwide. Despite the relatively modest average speed of just over 83 km/h (52 mph), the airship represents a significant stride towards environmental sustainability in aviation.

Beyond the obvious ecological advantages, the Solar Airship One, and similar airships, offer enhanced flexibility for air travel and cargo transport. These vehicles can halt and resume motion at virtually any location, eliminating the necessity for runways and promoting more efficient and adaptable air travel and cargo transportation. With hydrogen-filled airships envisaged as the next generation of cargo movers, capable of carrying substantial payloads at a fraction of the price and far greater speed than cargo ships, the future of air transport glows brightly.

Solar Airship One’s solar panels fuel its daily propulsion and store additional energy by transforming water into hydrogen, powering the airship at night via a hydrogen cell.

Nonetheless, the utilization of helium, an irreplaceable element, for maintaining the airship’s structure poses an environmental consideration. The Solar Airship One comprises 15 envelopes holding a total of 50,000 cubic meters (1.77 million cubic feet) of helium, which, once released, irreversibly exits the Earth’s atmosphere.

As the world anticipates the Solar Airship One’s monumental journey in 2026, hovering close to the equator at around 6,000 meters (19,700 feet), the venture stands as a resounding testament to the viability of renewable energy in reshaping global aviation for a more sustainable future. The venture not only highlights the possibility of long-distance, zero-emission travel but also underlines the growing commitment to eco-friendly innovations in the realm of global transportation. The potential cost reductions in air travel and cargo transport further signify a step towards a more economically and environmentally balanced world.

Set for 2026, the airship’s global expedition aims to follow the equator at an approximate altitude of 6,000 meters.

Source: Euro Airship

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