DSEI 2019: Long game planned for Airlander 10 – UV – Unmanned Vehicles
Manufacturer Hybrid Air Vehicles is chasing a target of 2024 to put a newly modified Airlander 10 in service – following a decision to retire a seven-flight prototype of the manned warship earlier this year.
A number of key business and programme related matters are planned to be resolved before then, the most pressing of which is where to base production – with the company actively negotiating on that front, in advance of a stated target of starting production at the end of 2019.
A location close to the company’s design headquarters in Bedford, England, is looked upon as an ideal choice, a company spokesperson told Shephard.
Firm orders have not been secured by defence contractors to this point, but two letters of intent for undisclosed commercial customers have been registered.
An ability to carry 3t of mission equipment is looked upon as a hefty advantage to prospective defence operators, with specific capabilities including ISR, EW, multi-spectral imaging and ground moving target indication, and the aircraft able to stay in the air for five days, according to Robert Venner, bid manager at Hybrid Air Vehicles.
Beyond promoting the platform to military customers however, a long-term plan is being carefully employed to ensure future targets are met, though accelerated timelines are unlikely.
‘We have to plan at an appropriate pace because we’re relying on private investors. If we had enough money behind us, we could get into a real race on this, but we are taking it very carefully, stage by stage, making sure to do things at the right time,’ Venner told Shephard.
Core changes to the prototype include empennage and powerplant improvements, whilst a collective effort from suppliers will be required in order to press forward with certification issues.
‘Everything has to go through EASA, CAA regulations, but we’re breaking new ground with this because there’s not too many certifications or specifications for Hybrid airships,’ Venner added.
‘So those people [suppliers] who come along that journey with us are learning the same way we are.’
On the supplier front, a MoU signed between Hybrid Air Vehicles and Vertex Aerospace earlier this month, will enable ‘joint proposals’ of fully configured Airlander 10 aircraft to be offered to the US Department of Defence.