UK airship company in fundraising push as it looks to cut air travel emissions

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A UK company is planning to bring airships back to the skies as a viable low-emissions alternative to internal flights or short hops across the border.

Hybrid Air Vehicles, which claims its blimp-style aircraft pump out 75% less carbon emissions than aeroplanes, said it was in talks with airlines who might operate routes such as Liverpool to Belfast and Seattle to Vancouver, with a fundraising underway to enable it to continue development.

It is currently looking to refuel its balance sheet with a £30mln funding round it told Yahoo News this week, following the £1.6mln top-up on the Crowdcube crowdfunding website that included support from City mining veteran Peter Hambro, Iron Maiden singer Bruce Dickinson and the government’s Future Fund.

The Bedfordshire-based company today revealed details about its Airlander ships, including its planned routes and the expected emissions on those trips.

Liverpool to Belfast, for example, would take five hours and 20 minutes, Seattle to Vancouver in just over four hours, Barcelona to Palma de Mallorca in four and a half hours; and Oslo to Stockholm in six and a half hours.

It said the CO2 footprint per passenger would initially be near 4.5kg, compared with about 53kg for those taking the plane, while in future the airships are intended to be electric powered.

Hybrid Air Vehicles reckons these airship journey times are roughly the same time as aeroplane travel once getting to and from the airport was taken into account.

It expects to announce partnerships with airline customers in the next few months, the company told the Guardian.

Boss Tom Grundy told Yahoo News UK the company is likely to need another £140mln to bring its Zeppelin-style airships into production.

The company said its Airlander aircraft are ‘hybrid’ of other aircraft technology, with a combination of helium gas, a fabric hull, composite shell, and vectored thrust from rotating blades.

“Using the buoyant lift of helium reduces the fuel burn required just to keep the aircraft airborne – most of the airframe’s weight is countered by the helium’s buoyancy. In its current configuration, Airlander 10 produces approximately 75% fewer emissions than comparable aircraft in similar roles,” the company says on its website.

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