Return of the cloud colossi

French designer Jean-Marie Massaud's 'Manned Cloud' airship is designed to travel up to 3,100 miles and accommodate 50 guests.

Over on the Monitor's Bright Green blog, Eoin O'Carroll writes about my favorite pie-in-the-sky innovation of the week: a dirigible revival.

"As fuel prices continue to soar and greenhouse emissions rules tighten, more and more countries are looking into lighter-than-air craft as an alternative to planes and trucks," he blogs.

The basic blimp design has not changed – lemon-shaped with a light helium center. But these new models benefit from modern materials and the decades of aeronautical research that have come since the Hindenburg went down in flame and brought the zeppelin industry with it.

This comeback is mostly a European trend. The key artists and operators pitching this next generation of zeppelins seem to be French and German. The New York Times reported this weekend that "Deutsche Zeppelin-Reederei, the successor to the operator of the Hindenburg, has had success with a new generation of airship it uses to transport sightseers and scientific payloads."

The company runs blimp tours above southern Germany – an attraction that drew in 12,000 passengers last year. The French postal service might purchase an airship as a green option for shuttling parcels internationally.

French architect Jean-Marie Massaud drafted one of the most elegant dirigible designs – a 690-foot floating hotel (pictured above). Called the "Manned Cloud," this proposed whale-shaped craft could lodge 50 guests and 25 crew members.

However, as Eoin points out: "With top speeds of around 100 miles per hour, the ability to carry only dozens of passengers, and the need for huge landing spaces, they have some distinct disadvantages compared with jet airliners. But it’s hard not to be taken by their romantic appeal."

[Via Bright Green blog]

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