Google co-founder Sergey Brin is building the world's largest airship: All you need to know

400-foot aircraft is double the size of Boeing 747-8, the current record holder for the longest aircraft

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Photo: LTA Research
Photo: LTA Research

Published: Tue 28 Nov 2023, 5:13 PM

In the first week of November, the world caught the first glimpse of Pathfinder 1, a prototype electric airship. Its maker, Lighter Than Air Research (LTA), founded by Google co-founder Sergey Brin, envisions Pathfinder 1 to revolutionise climate-friendly air travel and accelerate his humanitarian work. The 400-foot airship is double the size of the Boeing 747-8, the current record holder for the longest aircraft, The Sun reported. Brin's goal is to repurpose these colossal airships into cargo vessels, signalling a bold leap into the future of air transportation.

What is Pathfinder 1?

The Pathfinder 1 proof-of-concept aircraft is a revolutionary blend of historical design, cutting-edge material, and innovative patented engineering and manufacturing methods. This next-generation airship is meticulously crafted to be safer, stronger and more efficient than any of its predecessors.

What are airships and how are they different from other aircraft?

Airships are special flying machines filled with gas like helium. Unlike planes, they float using the gas inside their flexible envelope, not wings. They can be non-rigid (blimps) or semi-rigid. Powered by engines, they move slower, hover, and fly at lower heights. In the past, they were used for travel and spying. Today, airships are used for surveillance, advertising, and research. They have benefits in long flights and eco-friendliness but are slower than planes. Advanced technology makes airships more useful for cargo transport and surveillance, sparking renewed interest in these unique flying vessels.

What is the hype about?

Apart from being the largest airship, Pathfinder 1 advocates for eco-friendly flying and supports the humanitarian efforts of its founder Sergey Brin. The company envisions creating a fleet of airships for disaster relief in areas with damaged infrastructure, offering a sustainable solution for both cargo transport and passenger travel.

What happened to the Hindenburg?

The Hindenburg, history's most famous airship, met a tragic fate on May 6, 1937. While attempting to land in Lakehurst, New Jersey, the German passenger airship caught fire, resulting in a catastrophic disaster. The flames engulfed the Hindenburg in a matter of seconds, reducing it to ashes. Of the 97 people on board, 36 lost their lives along with one worker on the ground.

The incident marked the end of the era of passenger airships, as the disaster raised concerns about their safety and led to a shift towards other modes of air travel, such as aeroplanes. Meanwhile, Pathfinder, along with its endless features, promises to be “safer, stronger, and more efficient than ever."

What does Google's founder have to do with all this?

Pathfinder 1 is the brainchild of LTA Research, the company founded by Google's co-founder, Sergey Brin, in 2015. His motivation in establishing this company was to pioneer the development of airships designed for humanitarian and cargo transport purposes.

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