Research and observation using an Airship

There is a continually growing market in environmental protection and observation, that can be served with the use of the hot-air airship.

Research using an Airship

The advantages of airships, and hot-air airships in particular, in comparison with "heavier-than-air" flying vehicles for observation purposes include the ability to hover as long as required in one place and to make intermediate landings on unprepared terrain, and if required also collecting all kinds of samples.


In conjunction with the "tree raft" a French airship team has done important work on documenting tropical flora. A "tree raft" is a construction of pontoons and nets that is placed from the airship onto the tree canopy of the tropical rain forest. A research team can then collect plant samples to be examined for their medical usability. For investigating larger areas the airship can also use a pontoon triangle, a miniature form of the tree raft attached under the airship for collecting samples. Since 1986 there have been several expeditions in Cameroun, French Guyana and Brazil.


Photographic documentation, such as of the two Neuschwanstein castles, of river landscapes in research projects of the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) in Germany and Austria and similar projects of NABU (Nature And Biodiversity Conservation Union) Germany with, in some cases, very comprehensive documentation of flood areas and alluvial forests, provide impressive evidence of the suitability of hot-air airships for environmental monitoring and near-range surveying. Often the hot-air airship provides the best, sometimes the only, possibility for carrying out scientific investigations from the air, that, from the ground, would be very time-consuming or in some cases impossible. The use of heavier-than-air vehicles is also infeasible here because fixed-wing aircraft fly too fast and helicopters with their downdraught from the rotors will damage or even destroy what is to be observed.


Another large-scale investigation was made by an airship team in February 1998 in Tanzania in the Serengeti. They were working on the tracks of father and son Grzimek, who used a single-motor Dornier 27 in the fifties to observe and analyse the movements of the large herds of animals. Again in 1998 the "eagle airship" served as a camera platform for a film team from the TV channels ARD and Arte for observing the migrations of large herds of animals from the air as did the Grzimeks in the fifties. "Serengeti shall not die" was the name of this expedition in a reference to the film of the Grzimeks shot 40 years earlier that gained an Oscar. For this project too, a special stamp was promoted, also with donations in five figures. The film about this expedition was broadcast over twenty times on different German and international TV channels.


Observation using an Airship

In all these cases hot-air airships have decisive advantages. When they are not in use they can, for example, be packed on a trailer, and incur no further significant costs. The gas-filled airship only reaches its place of use with considerable effort required in respect of logistics (ground crew, mooring tower, costs of planning etc.) and only by air. In contrast, the hot-air airship is transported at low cost by road in a trailer. Gas-filled airships of sizes comparable to hot-air airships still usually require crews of 8 to 10 people. Larger gas-filled airships of older designs may need up to 20 people.


In contrast, the ground crew of a hot-air airship suffices with three to four people, because these flying machines are only used for a few hours in favourable weather and are packed up again after use.


Apart from their lower performance, hot-air airships are more flexible in use than gas-filled airships. This is particularly relevant when planning activities in distant countries where a gas-filled airship can either not be used at all or only with enormous trouble in transporting it there.




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