The Rich Now Have Their Own Airship Half As Big As The Hindenburg

By Douglas Helm | Published

It’s not often that you see a massive vehicle in the sky that isn’t an airplane or a helicopter, but Google co-founder Sergey Brin is looking to change that with his LTA Research company’s Pathfinder 1 rigid airship prototype. The Pathfinder 1 is about to take its first outdoor flight. The end goal of the massive ship is to enhance both disaster response efforts and revolutionize zero-infrastructure cargo flights (via

The Airship Is One Of The Largest Built In Modern Times

Massive might be an understatement for the airship, which measures an impressive 407 feet in length and 66 feet in diameter. This makes it nearly twice the length of an Airbus A380. That impressive size doesn’t make it the biggest airship in the skies, but it’s definitely one of the most modern and innovative.

The Pathfinder 1 Is Reinforced With Carbon Fiber Tubes

The Pathfinder 1 rigid airship can trace its ancestors back to the early 1900s before the infamous Hindenburg took to the skies. Unlike these early examples, Pathfinder 1 is outfitted with a cutting-edge frame constructed from 96 welded titanium hubs and interconnected by 289 reinforced carbon fiber tubes. This innovation enables the airship to remain buoyant using helium as a lifting gas, a far safer choice than the hydrogen historically used in airships.

Engineers Used Innovative Tech To Ensure Safety

To make the airship even safer, it is crafted from non-flammable Tedlar material, ensuring safety in the skies. The ship can then take to the air thanks to the 13 ripstop nylon bags filled with helium and coated with urethane. Additionally, twelve compact electric propellers are strategically positioned on its sides and rear, with the ability to rotate 360 degrees for vectored thrust and precise position control.

The Pathfinder 1 airship relies on electric propulsion and carries a pretty hefty battery pack, but it also incorporates a pair of 150-kilowatt diesel generators. Eventually, they hope to replace these with more eco-friendly solutions like hydrogen fuel cells. The ship doesn’t move at a very rapid clip, though, with a top speed estimated at 75 mph and an estimated cabin area that can accommodate up to 14 passengers.

The Massive Airship Can Carry 11,000 Pounds

The airship’s cargo capacity, which is more what it is intended for, is more impressive, with the ability to carry between 4,440 and 11,000 pounds. The Pathfinder 1 currently calls a massive hangar in Mountain View, California, home, but it’ll be taking a trip outside since the company received a special airworthiness certificate that will allow them to fly the ship within the boundaries of Moffett Field and Palo Alto Airport.

The Pathfinder 1 is a proof of concept, but the team also has the massive 591-foot Pathfinder 3 currently in the works. They plan to build it in a colossal hangar in Akron, Ohio, which can house a ship up to 984 feet.

Putting Airships To Good Use

It’ll be cool to see when LTA Research is able to send these impressive airships into the friendly skies. Once they’re able to fly freely, the company is setting its primary focus on humanitarian aid. The ships will hopefully be able to deliver essential supplies to disaster-stricken areas and provide lifelines for people who need to evacuate where large aircraft can’t touch down and operate.