airships and blimps

Sept. 5, 2002 “Spirit of America” with other 3 Goodyear blimps

Airships, Dirigibles, Zeppelins, & Blimps: What’s the Difference? – An airship is a powered, steerable aircraft that it is inflated with a gas that is lighter than air.

Airship or dirigible – a type of lighter-than-air aircraft that can be steered and propelled through the air using rudders and propellers or other thrust mechanisms. Unlike aircraft that use aerodynamics, such as fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters that produce lift by moving an airfoil through the air, aerostatic aircraft stay aloft by having a large “envelope” filled with a lifting gas that is less dense than the surrounding air.

Blimp or non-rigid airship – a floating airship without an internal supporting framework, or a keel. A non-rigid airship differs from a semi-rigid airship and a rigid airship (e.g., a Zeppelin). It does not have any rigid structure, framework or keel, to help the airbag maintain its shape. Blimps rely on both a higher pressure of the lifting gas (usually helium) inside the envelope and the strength of the envelope itself.

Photo/Paul M. Walsh – airship, the “Spirit of America,” Sept. 5, 2002. The “Spirit of America” was christened, and flew with three other Goodyear North American airships, the Eagle, the Stars and Stripes and the Spirit of Goodyear. Notice how big this blimp and hanger are – those are people standing in front of the airship.

  • Blimp envelope – material durable, airtight, lightweight fabric (polyester composites)
  • Lifting gas – helium

Mooring mast – structure for docking an airship outdoors. The mooring mast or tower is equipped with a fitting on its top that allows the bow of the airship to attach its mooring line to the structure.

Airship rating

  • What it takes to become a blimp pilot – Pilots interested in getting their pilot certificate with an airship rating will have to train while on the job, since there are no schools that teach this particular skill, according to Bret Viets, chief pilot on the MetLife Snoopy Two blimp.

What’s the problem?
Goodyear’s Blimp Build (video 2:10) – Mar 14, 2014. The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company unveiled an all-new, state-of-the-art version of its world-famous icon, the Goodyear Blimp. The new airship is larger, faster, and more maneuverable and builds on the company’s legacy as the world’s leading builder and operator of airships.

  • Ask – How they stay in the air / altitude control? What are some of the design problems for someone building an airship or blimp? How does the airship land?
  • Imagine – Blimps float, just like boats do. So many of the things we know about moving and controlling boats applies to boats, especially submarines. Instead of water, the medium is air. In both cases, buoyancy plays an important part.
  • Design, Build – How does the pilot steer something bigger than a house? How does the blimp stay inflated?
  • Improve – Blimp technology is improving. Propulsion and steering mechanism ensure that blimps have better controls, are more maneuverable and safer to operate.

That’s engineering

  • ducted fan – a propulsion arrangement whereby a fan, which is a type of propeller, is mounted within a cylindrical shroud or duct. The duct reduces losses in thrust from the tip vortices of the fan

Engineering ideas

  • rudders, propellers, thrust mechanisms, airfoil, aerostatic, steering, envelope, lifting gas, ducted fans

Do it
Here are some challenges for you to work on…

News, updates

  • World’s largest airship inflated – the airship features many innovations, including propelling ducted fans which are mounted along the centerline of the hull rather than beneath it, so that the nose does not lift when more power is applied

Learn more…