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A flying car that makes sense

The basic foolishness of flying cars is the idea that it makes sense to fly around with a huge car engine for turning the wheels of a car, as well as with the engine and the wings that do the flying, all in one gigantic and gigantically impractical conglomeration. Car engines are one thing, flying machines are another. You either have two entire engines, one to do each job properly. Or you somehow contrive for one engine to do both jobs, sort of how the Harrier Jump Jet gets the same engines to do both its jumping and its jetting. That works, after a very fuel inefficient fashion, for Harrier jump jets, because jumping and jetting are sufficiently similar for one engine to be able to do both jobs. But car engines and flying engines are very different.

But now here comes this Airbus idea, where, instead of flying the entire car, you fly just the box that the people sit in. When being flown, the box is carried by a flying machine. When being driven, the box is carried by a driving machine. Note that once our container is plucked away from its road-driving engine, that road-driving engine can still then drive itself intelligently, to a park, for instance. Or, it could make itself useful by carrying other human containers. Robots, unlike engines, can be very light, so having several in one contrivance, cooperating as needed, is entirely possible.

I always believed that only when robots fly the cars will flying cars become a real possibility, because only robots can fly well enough and with enough collective discipline. This, it seems to me, is how the robots will do it. This is what they will fly.

Flying cars and robot cars, in other words, are all about human shipping containers.

Once you talk about containers rather than entire machines, you realise that these containers could perhaps also, in addition to being individually flown, be bulk flown in bulk carriers, over vast distances, for a fraction of the cost of driving, and if desired, a fraction of the time. All the nonsense of packing and unpacking, of clambering onto and extricating yourself from an airplane could then be dispensed with, as would all the ridiculousness of airports. All that can be handled by the robots, at their leisure. Also, at your destination, you’d be able to go on living in your own container. Multistory car parks would mutate into cheap hotels.

What all this illustrates, I think, is how very radically the robotising of transport, and of life generally, is going to change transport, and life generally. I don’t say that we will for certain see exactly the sort of human transport system that these Airbus envisagers envisage. Nothing is certain, when it comes to exactly how our new robot overlords will choose to go about their business. But this is the kind of change that the robots will surely bring. You can envisage, for instance, a world where we each own one or two human containers, while merely hiring whichever engines we need at any particular journey.

Might the same or a similar container shape then find itself being used for transporting other things besides humans? The possibilities are endless.

Or, maybe … not. The above ruminations are only that, ruminations. Please sprinkle words like “it seems to me” (there actually was one of those) and “surely” and “presumably” and “maybe” and “my guess would be”, for what you have just read is only me guessing, and what do I know? I am looking forward to the comments on this, because this is the kind of thing our often very tech-savvy commentariat is really good at commenting on.

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46 comments to A flying car that makes sense

  • Paul Marks

    Autogyros (I believe a Spanish invention – from before World War II) are not that expensive.

    I am told that some people use them to commute in Alaska and other areas where roads are rare.

    Perhaps if government did not spend a fortune on roads, “flying cars” would be far more common.

  • Mr Ed

    In the early 1920s, English Electric made the Wren, a pilot-only aircraft that presumably was intended to be used much as a car might have been. With a slightly better engine, propellor and less drag it might have got further, but then the car came on in leaps and bounds. The wondrous Shuttleworth collection has a flying example, which, with a new ‘airscrew’ and a jockey-sized pilot, can get off the ground. Reportedly on its first flight, the pilot could only get to just over hedge height and had to fly a long ‘D’ loop to get back to the runway, and he disappeared from sight for quite a while before popping over the hedge at the other end of the runway and safely returning.

    But if the Wren had been a hit, it might have revolutionised personal transport by the mid-1930s. Here it is at Shuttleworth in 2014.

    Fast-forward three decades, and the same company made the Lightning. The UK being what it is, only the Wren is still flying.

    Wren data:

    General characteristics

    Crew: 1
    Length: 24 ft 3 in (7.39 m)
    Wingspan: 37 ft (11.28 m)
    Height: 4 ft 9 in (1.45 m)
    Wing area: 145 sq ft (13.5 m2)
    Empty weight: 232 lb (105 kg)
    Max. takeoff weight: 420 lb (191 kg)
    Powerplant: 1 × ABC 8 hp flat-twin motorcycle engine, 7.5 hp (5.6 kW)
    Performance

    Maximum speed: 50 mph (80 km/h)
    Rate of climb: 180 ft/min (0.9 m/s)

  • Nicholas (Unlicenced Joker) Gray

    The closest thing we have to an aircar are helicopters. I don’t know how many ks per l you get, but how many of us would use a helicopter, even if they were cheaper? And if they became more numerous, would we be living in the Jetson’s world, with ‘street’-lights hovering in midair to direct traffic?
    A better idea for a car would be an improved all-terrain vehicle. You should be able to fix paddles, smaller than the wheels, just behind the rear wheels, perhaps as part of the wheel-bracing. Then you could avoid bridges, and have freer movement, without the danger of falling from the sky. Instead of needing to change the car, with this idea, you should be able to drive into, and out of, water whenever you wanted.

  • Fred Z

    Fuel efficiency. Thermodynamics.

    Flying cars are possible only if energy is incredibly cheap, and even then I’m giving a pass to an air traffic control computer system being able to deal with that idiot brother in law of yours who has gin for breakfast.

    Oh well, the Russian Copter Cam videos will be terrific.

  • Jib Halyard

    Don’t understand this assumption that ducted fans or jets for vertical flight would ever find any real commercial acceptance. Without wings or rotors, engine failure means vertical drop. OK for an unmanned drone, but not for this passenger…

  • newrouter

    ” You can envisage, for instance, a world where we each own one or two human containers, while merely hiring whichever engines we need at any particular journey.”

    Why own the container? Also why ship containers rather than just humans?

  • ams

    You have cars because the men who designed and built cars did so in an era where it was believed that men could be responsible users of technology, and giving them powerful efficacious tools was a good thing to do.

    You have airplanes (in a limited and attenuated fashion) and helicopters, and electric plants based on combustion for similar reasons.

    You don’t have flying cars and nuclear reactors, because these things were invented in an era where the people in charge of society think men are evil and irresponsible, and providing them with powerful efficacious tools is treason. Don’t think these same people aren’t going to try to take your cars, and your powerplants, and finally your last bit of fire and your last measly hand-tools.

  • Deep Lurker

    I don’t see flying cars happening without a radical new technology coming on-line. Flying motorcycles, on the other hand, seem plausible to me in the near-future,

  • Erik

    Don’t understand this assumption that ducted fans or jets for vertical flight would ever find any real commercial acceptance. Without wings or rotors, engine failure means vertical drop. OK for an unmanned drone, but not for this passenger…

    Worse in our current era, system update means vertical drop. Drones have already been falling out of the sky because the manufacturer released a patch and the drone decided to reboot on the spot. Oops.

  • Martin Audley

    This Airbus design adds exactly nothing to the debate because, like all designs for flying cars since WW2, it’s pure fantasy. It’s just CGI, not an engineered solution, and purely marketing puff.

    We will, one day, have battery technology able to carry a family into the air, with decent range, and a power reserve safety margin. But we don’t have it yet. Until we do, no internal combustion system can vertically lift without mechanical complexity, leading to enormous cost-per-hour to cover essential maintainance. Helicopters do exist, and only the rich can afford them. Gyrocopters do exist, and kill many occupants.

    And the vertical drop risk: Really? The video shows a single aircraft flying directly over a thriving city. But if the system actually worked, they’d be tens of thousands of these in the sky. One system failure per ten thousand, and someone underneath has a very bad day. It’s got to fall somewhere.

    Let’s see the rough, open, but working prototype before we waste any more time on looking at pretty, curved, moulded, monoque cockpits.

    Oh – and another thing: If the Airbus system ever works as well as their mockup portrays it, there’s no need to make the cockpit a separate object anyway – the need for most passenger cars goes away entirely.

  • Mr Ecks

    ams is correct.

    All the system shown–and “driverless” cars– will be state-controlled if not state-owned. Which is why driverless is being media-hyped despite the software being nowhere near.

    The political/bureaucratic dream is that you will be able to go exactly where and when the state allows you to go. Sure–they can cut off the roads today but only at huge expense not at the push of a button.

  • Andrew Duffin

    Ams and Ecks are spot-on.

    I have long thought that if gas cookers were invented today, the “people in charge” (we all know who they are) would say “You what? You’re suggesting we pipe inflammable gas, under pressure, into peoples’ houses, and let them light a little flame on the end of the pipe, to cook with? Are you mad?” and then they’d all fall about laughing, and that would be the end of that.

    It seems to me that useful inventions happen only when inventors can out-run regulators; when regulators become pretty much a majority of society (as they are now, if you include the bansturbators, eggers-on and nanny-state cheerleaders), then almost nothing of use will be invented: everything is lost in the friction of process.

  • CaptDMO

    Containers? Robot operation?
    No, personal environment pods.
    Is it going to be the Sea-tainer approach, or the farm tractor (assorted implements) approach.
    The Sea-tainer approach requires making reservations, and the joy of the destination.
    The farm tractor approach requires aptitude,responsibility, vigilance, ,and the joy of the journey, so….

  • Mary Contrary

    @Andrew Duffin.

    Nice point on gas cookers. I’d thought the same thing about bicycles. Which is why Segways are illegal to drive on either road or pavement (sidewalk, for our American readers).

  • Surellin

    Airplane engines are not necessarily different from car engines. For instance, although the Sopwith Camel indeed used a rotary engine, the Rolls-Royce Merlin (used in the Spitfire and Lancaster) was a V-12 and the Hispano-Suiza 8A (used in the Spad) was a V-8. The later could actually be popped under the hood of a (sufficiently large) car and perform quite normally. The former, at 1500+ hp, probably would be a little too much engine for anything short of a large truck.

  • bloke in spain

    @Surellin
    There was, what I presume to be, a Merlin engined car parked outside our local Iceland supermarket, couple summers back. I recognised it from a car mag feature, back in the 70s. Donor car for the back end was Reliant Scimitar. By the length of the bonnet & the size of the exhaust piping, seems likely the RR V12 still lurks in it.
    Thing that precludes a flying car, in the sense of something you could fly from your driveway, is the energy density of fuels. To stay in the air, a heavier than air vehicle needs to be throwing downwards sufficient air at sufficient velocity to balance the mass of the vehicle. Doing that with a car sized envelope implies a lot of energy. Adding the constraints of enough room & carrying capacity for passengers & a useful duration & you’re beyond anything a combustion process can provide.
    Batteries? Ignoring whether the sort of energy densities required are possible, would you want to? My car’s tank holds around 50 litres of gasoline for a range of about 300km. Energy wise, that’s equivalent to around 200kg of TNT. But, in the event of an oops it’s not likely to level a city block. The constraint’s that the fuel needs oxygen to burn & under normal circumstances, there’s no way to provide enough oxygen rapidly enough to let the whole lot burn in one go. Worse you get’s a big fire. Anyone who’s messed with big, high capacity batteries will be aware of what happens if you get an energy excursion. You can weld with a car battery. Get an arc with a temperature of thousands of degrees. The sort of energy density you’d have to have in a battery powers a flying car could be interesting if it came out in a hurry. Should get to hydrogen fusion temperatures.

  • John B

    And flying cars will fix which problem and provide what extra utility?

    Are they the answer to road congestion? So un-congested roads but congested air-space.

    Are they to get from point A to point B quicker by taking ‘as the crow flies’ routes? But they will inevitably suffer from over-flight restrictions and have to have designated take-off and landing points – so stacks of fling cars circling waiting to land in remote areas.

    The answer is a better developed road system (privatise it) which we can only get if Government policy is not to force people off the roads and onto trains because, well Government own the railways (yes they still do) and it justifies spending £1 billion subsidising them each year and, oh yes, saving the Planet… something.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    Fail-safe separation in three dimensions doesn’t look very hard; all that’s needed is a way of sensing proximity to another vehicle, and an automatic slow-down (to a stop, if necessary) when the proximity is too close. That assumes all vehicles are so equipped. Other traffic problems would likely be more complicated.

  • Erik

    Fail-safe separation in three dimensions doesn’t look very hard; all that’s needed is a way of sensing proximity to another vehicle, and an automatic slow-down (to a stop, if necessary) when the proximity is too close.

    The first adversarial abuse that springs to mind is a $50 drone with appropriate “I’m a vehicle” signal emitter creating traffic jams. Probably cheaper than having meat protesters stand in traffic.

  • staghounds

    Regardless of the technology, I believe it will be a long while until people trust their locomotion off a closed course to any device that they know is not operated by a sentient being. Merry go rounds, chair lifts, escalators, and (maybe) loop railways at airports may be the limits of our trust.

    I say maybe- there’s the illusion, from trains, that someone is up front or otherwise able to step on the brakes.

  • Dave Ward

    You’re suggesting we pipe inflammable gas, under pressure, into peoples’ houses, and let them light a little flame on the end of the pipe, to cook with?

    Some people are proposing that existing gas mains be used to supply HYDROGEN to homes… It’s all part of the “We must stop producing CO2” lunacy. And do any of the flying car proponents ever look at an aviation map? If they did, they might be aware of the ever increasing amount of controlled airspace, particularly around and over built up areas, and any decent sized airport. There is NO way our CAA would allow mass deployment of flying cars in such areas…

  • Myno

    Helicoper is expensive because complex and notoriously high maintenance. It can be stabilized by skilled (in)human pilot, but is inherently unstable, turning failure modes into viral videos. Drone design (multifan) is popular because simple and inherently stable. Long range aircraft design does not look like ‘copter of any sort because fixed wing is more efficient. (Osprey is worst of both worlds, because warfare.) VTOL is desirable because long runways are expensive. Commercial flight safe because redundancy. So… short range personal VTOL needs redundant design. Use 3 small LiquidPiston engines driving separate generators with redundant cables and control systems to multiple electric fans. eVolo Volocopter seems a viable first platform. NASA testing various adjustable angle wings with electric props because efficiency.

  • Patrick Crozier

    I’ll echo what others have said here: flying cars do appear to be a solution in search of a problem.

  • Shlomo Maistre

    Each time a subway train makes a stop it takes about 2/3 extra minutes than if it did not stop. Slowing down, stopping, letting people get off, letting people get on, and then accelerating to standard speed takes at least 2 minutes each time. Among those people who commute within/into cities for work MANY use the subway and among those people a high proportion hit at least 6, 8 subway stops – often higher than 10. Find a way to not need the subway car to slow down UNLESS IT’S YOUR STOP and you shave 20+ minutes off the commutes of millions of people. We have most of the tech for this already I suspect. I have a couple of ideas.

  • Nicholas (Unlicenced Joker) Gray

    Replace subway trains with moving walkways with different speeds! Passengers would step onto the slow, outer walkway, and could make their way to the fastest speed in steps if they had a long journey planned. No stopping and slowing of the walkway would be needed!

  • Myno

    N(UJ)G: Heinlein’s The Roads Must Roll, 1940

  • Julie near Chicago

    Myno,

    Second that!

  • Nicholas (Unlicenced Joker) Gray

    So how come nobody has done anything about it? Train companies stomping on another good idea? Everyone waiting for someone else to do the initial project, and then copying it if it succeeds?

  • Myno

    If I had to hazard a guess, it’s due to cost/mile + liability, not to mention the social issues Heinlein touches on. Trains have ubiquitous low cost low tech (the track bed and rails), and compact high cost high tech (engine and cars). A transit idea that attempted a compromise between classical rail and RoadsMustRoll was called Personal Rapid Transit: a dense grid of light tracks supporting tiny cars and serving lots of stations. Self-driving vehicles (whether ground or air) will obviate such infrastructure-intensive solutions.

  • Rich Rostrom


    Isaac Newton Says You Can’t Have a Flying Car

    This article makes a point which I hadn’t really considered, and no else has mentioned here. To hold the car up against gravity, something must be accelerated down to generate lifting force: “an equal and opposite reaction”, in Sir Isaac’s words. That something pretty much has to be air. The downdraft required to lift a 1-tonne or so car is enormously noisy and extremely disruptive of anything underneath it.

    This might be barely tolerable while the car is a few hundred meters up, but not while it is landing or lifting off. And the main point of a “flying car” is that it can go where surface cars go – i.e. it can park next to the home or shop or restaurant. A flying car that is only allowed to ground in a “landing zone” that is 50 meters from anything it would disturb would not be useful.

  • Y. Knott

    “This Airbus design adds exactly nothing to the debate”

    – Yeah, I looked at the picture on the “Related” item in the link, and found myself wondering: “Hey, does that car REALLY have enough engines? Enough propellers?” But I freely admit, whaddo I know? 😉

  • Paul Marks

    Autogyros, autogyros, autogyros.

    Proven technology – fairly inexpensive (relative to a car) and fairly fuel efficient.

    And proven technology – they have been around for the best part of a century.

    Disadvantage – the can not take off or land vertically, but they only need a short space.

    The drive way in a typical American home will do.

  • Paul Marks

    As for cargo – drones.

    Various companies are already experimenting with delivering things by drones.

    As for large scale cargo carrying.

    Helium (not hydrogen) filled airships. Possibly robot ones.

    Kipling (in his ABC Science Fiction stories) was writing about this more than a century ago.

  • Bob H

    This is like countless art college projects, just an exercise in fantasy.

    Such childish drawings appear regularly in the Daily Mail complete with an imaginary scenario of how they would work. Readers are beguiled into thinking they are serious possibilities rather than fiction.

    Ask yourself, have any of these designs come to anything other than in sci-fi novels?

  • Paul Marks

    Bob H. – both autogyros (for people), drones (for certain companies), and airships (what the U.S. Navy calls “blimps”) are all already in use.

    I find what Brian has said hard to follow (although that may be because he has “linked” to something – I tend to get thrown by “links”, actually I often do not even see them), but nothing I have said is “science fiction”.

    Not that there is anything wrong with science fiction.

  • Mr Ed

    In England, there is an airship project at the old Cardington hangars near Bedford and close to Shuttleworth.

    Iirc, it had a prang on an early flight and has been set back a bit. I did ask them if they could use a hydrogen/helium blend for lift, which would save on helium, increase buoyancy and perhaps reduce helium loss by diffusion with the idea being that mixing in He with H2 might sufficiently reduce the fire risk, but they told me that use of H2 is illegal in the EU for airships.

  • Y. Knott

    I’m a lifelong airship fan. As a long-time flyer (the kind that goes in a logbook, not a claim for expenses), I LOVE the idea of flying quietly; Hindenburg was so quiet that (I have the ref) a couple of ladies arrived at Lakehurst by train from Chicago late at night, boarded the airship and went straight to bed. ~Four-in-the-morning, one of them summoned the Steward; “What’s the hold-up? – why haven’t we left yet?” Hindenburg was out over the Virginia Capes at the moment, eastbound at full speed.

    But airships have grisly weaknesses; they’re terribly vulnerable to weather (turbulence tears them apart, and snow / freezing rain piles vast weight on their huge exteriors). Also, R-100’s trip to Canada showed that its casing rippled badly at speed; if they try to go very fast, they’ll aerodynamically pull themselves out of shape and vastly increase their drag.

    Thoughts? I realize this isn’t an airship-discussion thread, so feel free to delete 🙂

  • Nicholas (Unlicenced Joker) Gray

    Y. Knott, Why not an airship? Today some humans are attempting to go around the world in a light-weight plane with solar cells on the wings, and batteries to power it through the night. It is called The Solar Impulse, if you want to search the internet for it. If it is doable, then why not have hot-air dirigibles? If the air-sacks were sealed, with valves for air-control, and the top and sides of the airship were covered with light-weight solar cells, and it had some of those lithium batteries for power-storage, then you would have a balloon that could go anywhere, and you would not need to worry about fixing any leaky cells! (Just hover in midair, open the cell, go in and fix the tear, and restock the cell from local air.) The two major imponderables are- can we find a very light-weight cell? Can lithium batteries store enough to keep the cells hot, and also power the craft in flight?
    These would be huge vehicles, since hot air needs more space than hydrogen or helium, to give the same lift. But it does seem feasible to think that such airships could exist.

  • Nicholas (Unlicenced Joker) Gray

    Y. Knott, Why not an airship? Today some humans are attempting to go around the world in a light-weight plane with solar cells on the wings, and batteries to power it through the night. It is called The Solar Impulse, if you want to search the internet for it. If it is doable, then why not have hot-air dirigibles? If the air-sacks were sealed, with valves for air-control, and the top and sides of the airship were covered with light-weight solar cells, and it had some of those lithium batteries for power-storage, then you would have a balloon that could go anywhere, and you would not need to worry about fixing any leaky air-sacks! (Just hover in midair, open the air-sack, go in and fix the tear, and restock the air-sack from local air.) The two major imponderables are- can we find a very light-weight cell? Can lithium batteries store enough to keep the cells hot, and also power the craft in flight?
    These would be huge vehicles, since hot air needs more space than hydrogen or helium, to give the same lift. But it does seem feasible to think that such airships could exist.

  • Y. Knott

    – What I had in-mind…

    Helium – modern plastics could do a much better job of keeping it in than goldbeater’s skin did – and heat tubes running upward through the lift cells; big engines in the bottom of the dirigible (I was thinking Napier Deltic’s with carbon-fibre crankcases, and shafting out to propeller gear-cases that allow 180-degree swivel, both horizontal and vertical; a fun mental exercise to design) that exhaust into the heat tubes. This heats the helium and gives it that much more lift; and the envelope is kept warm and hence, less prone to freezing precip. An additional benefit; the USS Macon had water-recovery on its engine exhausts, to replace some of the lost weight from the burned fuel because if airships go too high, they must vent lift-gas and therefore can’t come back down again (other than the hard way, of course), and the heat risers through the lift cells would give us the same advantage.

    Graf Zeppelin did this right, btw; the bottom of its envelope (where there’s no lift anyways, the lifting gas is all at the top) had an enormous sac they filled with blaugas, a sort of propane; it weighed ~as much as air, so as the engines burned it off, the overall weight change was ~zero. Ideally, a way to compress and store lift-gas aboard; then zeppelins could fly above weather too. And patrol zeppelins should be piston-engined; much better fuel economy at part-throttle.

    Zeppelins are enormous and very fragile, so could we make their skeletons out of thin carbon-fibre tubing; no rigidity at all, you could roll the whole envelope up and put it away in the winter. Then to get the necessary rigidity in flying season, you inflate the tubing with high-pressure compressed air, like a bicycle tube; the envelope would be strong and flexible, and (unlike duraluminum) could bend more than once.

    And Solar Impulse is (at this time) a standing joke; had to be air-freighted to its start point in a 747, and its support crew chase it around the globe in a 757. One of Dr Johnson’s immortal word-plays springs to-mind: “Yes but what use is it?” “What use Sir, is a newborn baby?”

  • Tedd

    Having worked in three heavily regulated industries (nuclear power, aviation, and elevators) I’m inclined to disagree with a lot of what’s being said here about where regulation (and over-regulation) comes from. In nuclear power, aviation, and elevators, government regulation was requested by the industry itself, to reduce their liability risk, help them promote their businesses to a skeptical public, and discourage competition. I have little reason to doubt that that is the normal progression of regulation in most industries, at least where genuine risk of harm is present.

    If there has been a change over the years in how quick we are to move to that model of regulation it’s because the benefits (less third-party harm) are visible to the public while the costs (reduced liability risk and reduced competition) are largely hidden. As each new technology becomes regulated in this way it becomes seen as the normal progression, and eventually as the only path forward. It’s simply not the case that some notorious cabal of O’Briens is trying to control us all. Not that such people don’t exist. But they are more followers than leaders, in this case.

  • Y. Knott

    – and in all the above, dating back to before pressure-vessel regulations (Plimsoll’s saga also illustrates), many, many of those regulations are written in blood. Sadly.

  • Nicholas (Unlicenced Joker) Gray

    I never claimed that Solar Impulse is a wonderful success- but I do think that their attempt to do so is a worthwhile enterprise, and I think that they attempted it because current technology allows us to explore such concepts. With batteries becoming more competitive in terms of power to weight, then such a solar-powered hot-air airship (solairship?) should be viable in the near future. And the military worth of such vehicles should be immense. Not needing Hydrogen or Helium or fuel for the motors, they should be able to land forces behind enemy lines, or hover above cities for spying and/or intimidation.

  • Y. Knott

    Not a hope – not at the present, likely not for a long time in the future. By its very form, a solar powered airship could barely stay in the air and would have almost no useable payload – and would be very slow, since most of its energy is going to heat the envelope; troops need food and liquids in large quantity, and the longer it takes to get them there, the less likely they’ll arrive in time to affect the outcome, and the more likely the enemy’ll be waiting for them. Better HAHO para-gliders, I suspect.

    And spying; again, sensor fits are just getting better, and you’re violating their airspace so they’d have no qualms about shooting it down, as they’re now doing routinely with RC drones – zeppelins are reasonably proof against projectiles (“Oh – a hole; who’s got the duct-tape?”), but wide-open to lasers or EMP. The option is to make them very small and thus harder to detect, where again, they can carry so little payload they’d be of doubtful utility.

    My 2c’ worth…

  • Nicholas (Unlicenced Joker) Gray

    Plenty of hope- they’re already doing something similar right now! Put the words ‘Solar-powered’ and ‘airship’ into the Internet, and you will see many current attempts do do what I have suggested! They are talking about hydrogen and helium dirigibles, but the solar power aspect is already being successfully used.
    As for the military- they would probably want a small nuclear reactor for their craft, and even if the weight was light, the risks would mitigate against it.

  • Paul Marks

    Airships are only one of technologies that are already available.

    I have already mentioned autogyros and drones. No doubt there are other technologies either available now – or in development.

    I resent having to continually repeat myself.

    Also why can I not just approve my own comments?

    I am not going to swear.