Airlander 10 assembled, on track for first flight

UK-based Hybrid Air Vehicles has finished assembly of the Airlander 10 lighter-than-air craft and plans for a first flight by the year's end.

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Hybrid Air Vehicles (Shortstown, Bedford, UK) reports that it has completed final assembly of the Airlander 10 hybrid aircraft. The company will begin ground testing, followed soon by first flight. The Airlander 10 is a lighter-than-air craft designed to perform surveillance, monitoring, communications, cargo and aid delivery, and passenger transport.

The Airlander 10 has no internal structure; pressurized helium inside the craft causes the Vectran (Kuraray, Tokyo, Japan) skin to maintain its shape. Carbon fiber composites are used in structural applications to help minimize the weight of the craft. The Airlander 10 can stay aloft for up to five days at a time in an unmanned configuration. It can remain aloft up to to days at a time with passengers aboard.

"I’m extremely excited and looking forward to taking Airlander on what I’m sure will be a very successful First Flight," says chief test pilot, David Burns. The First Flight will be from and to Cardington Air Field, near Bedford, UK. The remainder of 2016 will see an extensive flight test program consisting of 200 hours of test flights over a number of months, then a series of trials and demonstrations with prospective customers.

Hybrid Air Vehicles says Forward Composites (Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, UK) has worked extensively with the company on many aspects of the aircraft, particularly the cabin. Other initial sponsors are AV Optics, BOC, Finmeccanica, Scotland Electronics and Vector Informatik GmbH.

Hybrid Air Vehicles concluded in May 2015 a £2.1million crowdfunding effort that, together with a UK government grant and an EU Horizon 2020 grant for highly innovative SMEs, permitted Hybrid Air Vehicles to hire almost 100 employees. The company has also secured many supply chain deals, spending more than £6 million with suppliers and securing additional UK jobs and growth.

Hybrid Air Vehicles has been awarded €2.5 million in funding from the EU's research and innovation program, Horizon 2020. The Airlander project was selected for funding through a dedicated SME Instrument of Horizon 2020, which the European Commission uses to invest in and support high-growth and highly innovative small businesses.