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Airships 101 - What are they and why we use different types of airship?

May 01, 2018

Airships have been used for quite some time. However, many people are still confused about various points surrounding these aircrafts. Find out exactly what airships are and how to differentiate different types of airships. Read through and find out basic information that you need to know about modern airships.

What is an airship?

An airship is a type of aircraft which uses lighter-than-air gas in order to navigate through the air. Hence, they are also known as LTA crafts, or dirigibles. They are a type of an aerostat, which means they use buoyancy to move through the air. Airships require large gas compartments filled with gas that has less density than the surrounding air in order to gain lift. If we were to talk about the history of Airships, we have to mention the hot air balloon, which was invented in 1783. Later on, a French officer wanted to improve on this design, by making the balloon able to be navigated. He even drew the design in detail, but it was never built. Another Frenchman decided to take a go at the airship, so in 1852. we got the first practical airship It was filled with hydrogen, and had a 3 hp engine. It weighed 160 kilograms and it coasted at 9 km⁄h.

It seems like the French really wanted to make airships a reality, and they did it! In 1884, the world saw the first airship which could be navigated. It was named, drumroll… La France. Two Frenchmen, Renard and Krebs managed to build the first navigable airship, which was under complete control of the pilots, while it coasted through the air at a steady 24 km⁄h. Airships got very popular around World War I, and their development soared in this period. Because their use provided Germans with the advantage, other countries quickly saw the potential of airships and started developing their own versions. During this period, other types of airships were developed, other than those with rigid structure.

Types of airships

All airships can be classified into these categories, depending on their construction.

Rigid airships

Rigid airships have inner framework made out of sturdy lightweight material, which is covered by an outer skin. Inside the interior, there are one or more gas compartments which generate lift. Rigid airships generally do not need pressure to maintain their shape. That’s what inner framework is for. The fabric which covers the framework protects the gas cells and provides aerodynamic support.

Semi-rigid airships

Semi-rigid airships require pressure to maintain their aerodynamic shape. However, they also have a partial rigid frame, usually in the form of a keel along the bottom of the envelope. This is for structural support and load distribution, and also helps with maneuvering.

Non-rigid airships

Non-rigid airships do not have any kind of inner frame; they rely entirely on internal gas pressure to retain aerodynamic shape. Regardless of their type, every airship consists of:

  • Gas-containing envelope
  • A gondola or some other object which makes room for people or equipment

Blimps are non-rigid airships, which mean they have no internal structure and rely entirely on gas pressure. Blimps are most common among all airships, because of their simplicity. However, they are limited by size, because they get unstable as size progresses. No one is really sure how the term came to be, and there are many stories of its origin. Nevertheless, there is no doubt what a blimp is. There are several uses for a blimp:

Although they seem obsolete, airships are still used to this day, but to a lesser extent. They still have some advantages over more modern technology. We here at Aero Drum are focused on bringing new technology and improving these cool vessels.