The Government has stumped up cash to support the development of airships for civil passenger carrying and military surveillance, with the award of a grant under the Civil Aircraft Research and Technology Demonstration programme.
The award of £230,000 over 18 months to a consortium led by Airship Technologies was confirmed last week by science minister John Battle. It will be used to develop innovative propulsion systems.
Partners in the consortium are Diesel Air and electronics specialist Stafford Services.
Airship Technologies is starting production with two new designs in the hangars at Cardington in Bedfordshire where the R100 and R101 were built.
The bigger of the two, the AT-04 will be capable of carrying 52 passengers, or 7.5 tonnes in a military role.
The AT-10 is smaller, aimed at the advertising market and will carry a pilot and four passengers. It could also be used for training.
Airship Technologies hopes to produce four of each variant each year.
Chairman Sir John Walker said the money from the Department of Trade and Industry, which will be more than matched by the consortium, is to develop a propulsion system based on a range of diesel engines small enough to mount directly in the airship’s propulsion duct rather than in the gondolas.
This would reduce complexity as well as noise and vibration which could affect passengers or sensitive equipment.