Hybrid Enterprises LLC has been formed to take on the job of marketing Lockheed Martin’s Hybrid Airships.
The need for an airborne cargo vehicle not dependant on airstrips or other ground infrastructure has long been obvious. Outsize and heavyweight cargo regularly has to be moved to remote locations to support the oil and gas industry, for example. To be able to maneuver into tight spaces, and land on any flat surface (water, ice, snow, sand, a jungle clearing) has been the grail of the project cargo industry for some time. But it has taken just as much time to refine the lighter-than-air concept into a hybrid airship that can actually work in the real world.
Lockheed Martin claims to have done just that. “We’ve invested more than 20 years to develop the technology, prove the performance, and ensure there are compelling economics for the Hybrid Airship,” said Orlando Carvalho, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics. “We have completed all required FAA certification planning steps for a new class of aircraft and are ready to begin construction of the first commercial model and the completion of the FAA Type certification process.”
According to Hybrid Enterprises and Lockheed, that first commercial model will be available for service “as early as 2018.” It will offer a payload of 21 tonnes (while also carrying 19 passengers), with a range of up to 1,400 nm (2,600 km). Cruise speed will be 60 kts – not quite up there with commercial jet freighters – but sufficient for all but emergency shipments.