Google co-founder Sergey Brin’s airship company Lighter Than Air Research (LTA) has been secretly brewing something big for some years. The secret project was unveiled in October last year as a massive disaster relief airship, which now seems to be in the final planning stages at a facility in Akron, Ohio.
Sergey Brin is known to have a thing for aircraft, and given that his $90 billion allow him to make his dreams come true, he embarked on a mission to build a mammoth airship to be used in disaster relief and humanitarian missions in areas where conventional aircraft has no access.
The project is called Pathfinder 1 and is a 400-foot-long (123-meter), 65-feet-wide (20-meter) new-age zeppelin that could hit the skies in its first test flight in 2023.
To make a better idea about its size, just imagine four Goodyear blimps side by side. It will be the longest aircraft to hit the skies in almost a century. To be more precise, it’s the longest since 1931, when Goodyear delivered the 785-foot USS Macon and USS Akron for the US Navy.
And LTA Research doesn’t plan to stop there; larger craft will be built at the Akron Airdock, with project Pathfinder 3 set to measure no less than 600 feet (183 meters).
Not much is known regarding tech details, but according to previously disclosed information about the project, Pathfinder 1 will weigh in at 28 tons, be able to cruise at 60 knots (111 kmh), and will have a range greater than 2,500 nautical miles.
It will run on lighter-than-air helium and boast an all-electric propulsion system, which will initially be powered by batteries but could run on hydrogen fuel cells in the future to reach the company’s zero-emission goal.
Pathfinder’s internal structure will feature lightweight carbon-fiber tubing, providing it with a sturdy, rigid skeleton that will be covered in a durable outer layer.
Alan Weston, CEO of LTA Research, affirmed in December that Pathfinder 1 will mark “the rebirth of an era when giant lighter-than-air vehicles circled the world” and “a new future for aviation, travel, [and] freight that uses less energy, is quieter, lower cost, [and has] a much smaller carbon footprint than any other form of transportation.”