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Although nobody was hurt during the crash, and much of the ship remained intact, the test unit sustained structural damage to the cockpit and landing gear, and required repairs and further modifications which prevented it from flying again until this month.
The Airlander recently completed a 2.5-hour flight from its base at Cardington field. This time around, regulatory restrictions prevented the Airlander from flying above an altitude of 1,300 meters, or at a distance greater than 15 miles away from its Cardington launch site — far from its full potential. Hybrid Air Vehicles claims the Airlander 10 can reach altitudes of 6,100 meters.
The appeal of Hybrid Airships is potentially huge. They require little fixed ground infrastructure or runways, flight crews are optional, and they burn less fuel than airplanes. How they navigate through variable weather conditions at low altitudes however, remains to be seen.
By 2021, Hybrid Air Vehicles expects to produce ten units annually of the $32m, 10-tonne-payload Airlander 10. The company is also developing a larger variant, the Airlander 50, with a planned payload of up to 60 tonnes. As might be expected, cruise speeds are not particularly high — 80 nautical miles per hour for the Airlander 10, and 105 for the Airlander 50 — but given that both models will be able to stay aloft for several days, and longer if unmanned, they will have considerable range (up to 2,000 nm for the Airlander 50).
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