Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV) has postponed the return to flight of its revolutionary Airlander 10. The huge buoyant-lift machine, which flew just once in the U.S. as the Long Endurance Multi-Purpose Vehicle (LEMV), will not be airborne again until “the end of next year,” according to the company. However, HAV has made progress in exploring new intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) applications, signing a new collaboration with sensor provider Selex ES.
After the LEMV was shipped to the UK in late 2013, HAV predicted new test flights beginning early next year. But although the small company has attracted new funding from equity investors and a UK government technology fund, it evidently underestimated the task of returning the 304-foot-long, 1.34-million-cu-ft vehicle to the air. HAV is planning a 200-hour flight-test program leading to certification of the Airlander 10 under UK CAA Section B regulations, and/or EASA regulations still under development. HAV has only 40 employees, but holds 21 patents for what it describes as a “disruptive technology.”
According to HAV’s latest study, the potential market for buoyant-lift vehicles over the next 20 years could be worth $50 billion. Applications include outsize cargo lift into remote locations; sensitive airborne geosurveys; and ISR. It believes that the remote access market will be best served by a scaled-up hybrid air vehicle named Airlander 50, 390 feet long with an envelope volume of 3.64 million cu ft.
A spokesman for Selex ES told AIN that the European sensor house has agreed to work with HAV in developing an ISR payload for the Airlander 10, which has a payload bay volume of up to 2,750 cu ft. Before the U.S. Army aborted the LEMV project , prime contractor Northrop Grumman is believed to have tested a combination of its very high-resolution vehicle dismount and exploitation radar with an EO/IR and a sigint sensor but only on the ground in a system integration laboratory. An HAV source told AIN that Selex ES could provide similar multi-sensor capability, including a 360-degree-view EO/IR system.
HAV is trying to persuade the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) to fund a two-month flying trial to explore potential military applications. The MoD has asked QinetiQ to study whether a concept capability demonstration would be worthwhile.