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Get ready for a new generation of cargo-carrying airships, says Prentice. The development "is actually much closer than people think. It's going to burst upon the market fairly soon."
Construction has been held back over the years due to a dramatic post-World War II increase in airplane development, funded by the military. Prentice believes the time is right for a reevaluation of vessels that were seen as too slow to be efficient movers of goods. On the contrary, he says, "they can travel 80 miles an hour. That's faster than a truck." As for capacity, the old zeppelins could carry 80 tons of cargo. "Modern airships would be much bigger than that."
Development is focused in the U.S., which has been a leader in airship development, as well as the U.K., Russia, China, Brazil and Canada. Prentice says the U.S. military has invested around $1bn over the previous 18 months, and is "getting very close to trial flights."
The use of modern airships will have a significant impact on international trade, he says. "It's going to be a disruptive technology. Every 50 years since the industrial revolution, we've seen a new mode of transportation." Advantages include low energy costs and a small carbon footprint.
Airships will be especially well-suited to cargo that doesn't require expedited transport, but is too delicate or perishable to travel by ocean. Fruits and vegetables will be among the best candidates. Transit time from the China to the U.S. will be around five days, and two days to Europe, with minimal vibration, Prentice says.
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Keywords: supply chain, international trade, global logistics, cargo airships, logistics & supply chain, transportation management, air cargo
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