The concept of an airship is not a new one. Around the World in Eighty Days brings to mind the iconic image of travelers stepping in to a hot air balloon for a cruise around the world, the legendary Hindenburg brings to mind the horrific image of a burning airship and who ever has watched Indiana Jones: The Last Crusade remembers Sean Connery and Harrison Ford escaping the Nazis in an airship. Sadly, that grandiose mode of travel has never reached the popularity it was supposed to. However, if you’re an enthusiast, this piece of news from China may spread a grin across your face.
Zhang Bingyan is a Chinese engineer obsessed with air travel. He has been working at the Henan Normal University in Xinxiang for 20 years and has come up with an inflatable airplane. It flies, carries luggage and is filled only with air. Its called the Sf-1.
Its speeds range from an average of 12 mph to 120 mph. It can carry loads of up to 25 kg to a height of 10,000 feet. With a wingspan of 20 ft and a weight of 90kg, the design allows for a relatively lightweight design and high impact resistance. The latter is the real novelty of this machine, even if it is shot out of the sky, its not liable to break.
While it is obviously not suited for passenger travel, it maybe the first step in process to construct a lightweight air filled plane. The plane costs £30k-£40k to make and is composed of a new fiber with 10-15 times the tensile strength of steel. It was unveiled at the International Tianjin UAV exhibition.