Plane-Blimp Hybrid Drone Debuts
Two brothers in Seattle, working as Egan Airships, have built a drone that combines features from both fixed-wing aircraft and blimps to create an aircraft that can hover, take off and land vertically, and fly at up to 40 mph. The 28-foot-long aircraft weighs less than 55 pounds and uses a patented streamlined envelope design, rotational wings and an extended tail. It’s powered on both the wings and the tail. It offers smooth flight and acceleration for nearly stable platform filming, the company says, and an unpowered descent speed of 9.5 mph should engines fail. The Plimp aircraft is expected to be commercially available by early next year, the company said.
The inflated portion of the Plimp aircraft is filled with helium, which is not flammable, and provides part of the lift, which is supplemented by lift created by the rotational wings. Due to its buoyancy, the company says, the Plimp is more efficient than helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft for surveillance and inspection operations. The aircraft is highly visible for miles, so line-of-sight rules can be adhered to for much greater distances than conventional drones, the company said. Its size and visibility also enhance collision avoidance. The aircraft can be operated remotely by a pilot and flight technician, and does not require a runway or launch/recovery system to operate. “Technology advancements in carbon-fiber composites, ultra-thin bladder materials and battery technologies have allowed Plimp aircraft to meet drone performance objectives today,” said Egan Airships co-founder James Egan.