A French team is preparing for a 20-day long nonstop airship flight that will circumnavigate the globe without any fossil fuels being used.
Euro Airship, the startup behind this project, has been working on this project for a decade, and since 2020 it has been defining the industrial aspects of it, together with technology and consulting firm Capgemini.
The result is “Solar Airship One”, 151-metre long rigid airship that will be filled with 50,000 m3 of helium. Its propulsion system will get energy from two sources: 4,800 m2 of solar panels will cover the upper half of the aircraft, while, at night it will use hydrogen to power a fuel-cell.
The journey, which if everything goes according to plan, should kick off in 2026, will cover 40,000 km, flying from west to east and without touching down at any point and at an average height of 6,000 meters. The expected journey time is between 20 and 30 days.
“Solar Airship One” will have a crew of three. One of them will be adventurer and sustainable flight pioneer Bertrand Piccard, who has already completed two record-setting circumnavigations of the globe, one, in 1999, on a hot air balloon, the other, in 2016, on the Solar Impulse, an experimental electric aircraft fitted with solar panels.
Also onboard will be Dorine Bourneton, the first disabled woman to become an aerobatic pilot (Bourneton was severely injured at age 16 in an aircraft accident) and Michel Tognini, a former French Air Force fighter pilot and European Space Agency astronaut (Tognini has been twice to space, in 1992 and 1999).
They aim to prove that fossil-free flight is feasible over large distances and that airships can be used as a sustainable mode of transportation for a number of commercial applications.
During their around-the-world flight, the Euro Airship crew plans to broadcast their activities to schools, academia and governments to raise awareness about the possibilities of this technology. A documentary film is also being planned.
Airship technology has drawn the interest of a number of startups in the last decade. In addition to Euro Airship, other companies that are working on this technology are Flying Whales, which is also based in France, UK-based Hybrid Air Vehicles and American firm Lighter Than Air (LTA), which is funded by Google founder Sergey Brin.