Google co-founder, Sergey Brin’s secretive project to build a massive electric airship is rapidly expanding. His Lighter Than Air (LTA) research firm is preparing to launch a new research later this year. Currently, Brin is hiring hundreds of aeronautical engineers in Silicon Valley and at a location in Akron, Ohio, known for its Goodyear blimps. He is planning to build blimps for humanitarian missions to remote areas or disaster areas.
LTA was founded in 2014, while Brin resigned as an executive at Google parent Alphabet in 2019. LTA has its headquarters at Moffett Airport in the San Francisco Bay Area, a facility owned by NASA and a short drive from Google’s headquarters. NASA began leasing the facility to LTA in 2015.
LTA hopes to reshape airships for the 21st century with “zero-emission” flights. The company’s first full-scale airship, Pathfinder 1, is 120 meters long and is scheduled to begin test flights in Silicon Valley this year. At the same time, LTA is also developing a larger airship: Pathfinder 3 at the Akron dock. It’s 185 meters long, and when it’s complete, it will eventually be able to carry 96 tons and have a range of up to 10,000 miles (16,000 kilometers). LTA’s recruitment drive in Akron over the next few months will double the company’s workforce to more than 400 people.
According to the available reports, the mysterious electric airship, Pathfinder 1 will run on lighter-than-air helium. Since helium is non-combustible, it is safer than flammable hydrogen. Recall that the Hindenburg disaster back in 1937 had links to the combustible flammable hydrogen. For now, the initial power will come from batteries. This is an all-electric system that will produce zero emissions.
China’s first 5G unmanned helium airship successfully tested
On September 14th, 2021, China successfully tested its first unmanned airships. This airship called “5G Caiyun No. 1” has a 5G base station, a high-definition camera, and a power system. There is also a motor support vehicle below.
The air-ground integrates 5G emergency communication which guarantees the helium airship to be in the air by filling with helium. This can provide more than 15 days of air station time. It also offers a load of more than 200kg, and a wind resistance of up to level 8.
The official claims that the airship can provide high-speed over 10Gbps and multi-standard signals such as 2~5G through a self-developed emergency communication coverage model algorithm, combined with 5G communication innovation technology and highly integrated optoelectronic hybrid cable, to achieve large-area communication coverage. It effectively solves the pain points of traditional emergency support methods such as slow response, small coverage, and slow data return.