As well as carrying cargo, the new craft could also have military applications – providing logistic support – and Nasa is working with the US Department of Defense, as well as a range of private companies, to develop the new vehicles.
The prototype airship is being built with California-based company Aeros, who have developed a new system that allows the buoyancy of the airships to be altered without loading or offloading material.
In the past airships relied on taking on board water or soil as ballast to ensure they stayed on the ground as passengers and cargo was taken on board. It also made adjusting the buoyancy mid-flight relatively difficult.
Instead, the new ships – starting with prototype, the Aeros Pelican – will carry compressor tanks that can add or remove helium to bladders inside the airship to adjust its altitude
A rigid structure using carbon composite fibre instead a metal structure also allows the airship to lift far heavier loads than earlier airships could.
Engineers have also modified the old cigar shaped Zeppelin design for a flatter and more aerodynamic shape.
I THINK A FEW OF THESE NEAR GAZA AND SINAI AND LEBANON CAN KEEP THE ISLAMO-TERRORISTS THERE IN CHECK.
SOME COULD BE SMALL UNMANNED VERSIONS WITH SENSORS WHICH DETECT TERRORIST ACTIVITY AND RELAY COORDINATES TO UNMANNED MISSILE BATTERIES.