A Spanish company called Turtle Airships is working on plans to build a luxurious solar-powered blimp which can take passengers from New York to Paris.
Perhaps the only thing cooler than being powered by lightweight photovoltaic cells, this airship is also designed to rest on land or water.
The first blimp prototype will be propelled in two nontraditional ways. The outside of the ship will be covered with Cadmium-Indium-Germanium (CIG) photovoltaic cells, picked for their their light weight. The cells should generate enough power to move the blimp at around 40 mph in average conditions, or at around 70 horsepower. Meanwhile, a diesel drivetrain will generate the rest of the power, and ideally the designers will look to an adapted hybrid electric model for that. And because blimps fly at low altitudes, they don't have to deal with problems that plague diesel engines at elevations over 30,000 ft.
The only thing currently keeping this visionary project from flying is funding. But Turtle Airships hopes that will change after the completion of a genuine prototype that will demonstrate the project's viability to funders. "Our goal in flying this remote control model is to get some video of it onto the Web and hopefully attract some financing that will enable us to move on from there to a genuine, manned, demonstration model of a Turtle Airship," said one spokesperson.
The folks at Turtle Airships don't like calling their aircraft a 'blimp': "It is a rigid shelled, amphibious, solar powered, all weather, FAST aircraft that is lifted by helium, but it is not a blimp."
Even so: it's a blimp. [note: not accurate, since a "blimp" by definition gets its shape from gas pressure, not from a framework as this design does -ed.]
Though that doesn't take anything away from the ingenuity of its design. Their idea is certainly not one short on vision. And who wouldn't want to take a transatlantic ride on a flying luxury cruise ship powered by sunshine?
Nasty memories of the Hindenburg aside [note: the Hindenburg caught fire because it was painted with the equivalent of rocket fuel to "cure" the skin -ed.], it may not be long before passengers are flying comfortably from New York to Paris – and beyond – aboard Turtle Airships.