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Airlander 10 hybrid-electric blimp in the air over green fields
Photograph: Hybrid Air Vehicles

Could these climate-friendly blimps be the future of flying?

Hybrid Air Vehicles’ airships could be zipping across Europe by 2025 – and cut carbon emissions by 90 percent

By Rosie Hewitson
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If the past 15 months have taught us anything, it’s that the opportunity to hop across the continent for a quick city break is an amazing privilege that we definitely all took for granted.

But even as we cautiously emerge from lockdown and international travel is (partially) back on the cards, there’s still the small matter of an impending climate emergency to contend with. And as much as we all really deserve to go gallivanting about the globe after months of being stuck inside our homes, the devastating impact of flying on the environment is an issue that really has to be tackled before we can ever return to guilt-free jet-setting. 

Enter Hybrid Air Vehicles, a company aiming to reduce the carbon footprint of commercial flights by developing eco-friendly airships that it claims will reduce emissions by 90 percent compared with traditional flights. The 100-seater hybrid-electric Airlander 10 prototype was first conceived over a decade ago and embarked on its maiden voyage in 2012. After years of fine-tuning, the manufacturers of the impressive — and, from certain angles, undeniably butt-shaped — aircraft are planning an initial production run in 2025. And this week they also announced a bunch of flight routes that they hope to have up and running the same year. 

The rear view of the Airlander 10 aircraft sitting in a hangar
Photograph: Hybrid Air Vehicles

Taking a similar time to an aeroplane flight (once travel to and from airports is factored in), each journey produces a fraction of the CO2 emissions of an aeroplane flight. For a five-hour flight between central Liverpool and central Belfast, HAV estimate that the emissions per passenger will total 4.75kg, compared with 67.75kg for a plane. Other planned routes include Seattle to Vancouver (in slightly over four hours), Barcelona to Palma (four-and-a-half hours), and Oslo to Stockholm (six-and-a-half hours).

And unlike a cramped, uncomfortable four hours in the middle aisle of economy, a journey on the Airlander 10 looks pretty damn pleasant to us. Initial designs for the aircraft’s interior feature plush seats and floor-to-ceiling windows offering plenty of space, natural light and incredible views of the world below.

CGI render of the proposed interior of the Hybrid Air Vehicles' Airlander 10 airships featuring side windows looking out onto a city and clusters of white chairs
Photograph: Hybrid Air Vehicles

So if everything goes to plan it looks like we’ll be able to enjoy comfortable, luxurious international travel without all that climate-related guilt in just a few short years. And definitely just as importantly, we’ll feel like proper royalty while we’re at it.

Did you see this European city is building a glass mountain with a massive concert hall inside?

Plus: Scotland is getting its own incredibly extra version of Cornwall’s Eden Project.

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