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Deep Dive: What opportunities new airships offer for aviation

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Deep Dive: What opportunities new airships offer for aviation

“If we rely on solar-powered airships, we can make aviation more climate-friendly pretty quickly,” says Christoph Pflaum, Professor of Computer Science at FAU. On his website at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg it says that he works on “numerical simulations on high-performance computers.” Nevertheless, Pflaum also focuses on the supposedly archaic airships. In September he even organized his own conference on the subject. In an interview with TR editor Gregor Honsel, he talks about what fascinates him about airships and where he sees their potential for use.


Here you will find an overview of our three podcast formats: the weekly news podcast “Weekly” and the monthly podcasts “Unscripted” and “Deep Dive”.

Airships are trending if you look at some start-ups. Only recently, for example, Google co-founder Sergey Brin’s company LTA Research received preliminary approval for flight tests from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for its Pathfinder 1 airship. Flight testing has already begun in California. It relies on a hybrid energy and drive system consisting of electric motors, diesel generators and batteries. Later, electricity from hydrogen fuel cells will provide the drive. The airship that Pflaum is researching is solar powered. He emphasizes that it has what it takes to be a “real game changer” as a climate-friendly means of transport in aviation. Simulations published by the team from Nuremberg and Munich in the International Journal of Sustainable Energy are intended to prove this.

As an expert, Pflaum gives an insight into the most promising concepts and drives for the new generation of airships, and he classifies which models he sees as more in the passenger or cargo sector. And what could future travel by airship look like?

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The entire conversation – as an audio stream (RSS feed):

You can find out more about the topic of airships in a detailed article in the upcoming issue 1/2024 of MIT Technology Review, which will be in stores on December 14th. The cover story is about China – whether it can catch up with semiconductors, for example, and whether Chinese cars are really as much of a threat to the German car industry as they always say.


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