Dubai to transport fresh flowers by airship
Dubai could be a global airship freight hub in the coming decades, according to Dubai-based Airships Arabia, which has bought two different hybrid airships.
One, Lockheed Martin’s Hybrid Airship, will have a 10ft x 10ft x 60ft cargo bay capable of carrying a 21-tonne payload and 19 passengers. A British counterpart, the Airlander 10, has a smaller payload of 10 tonnes, but space for 48 passengers.
Airships Arabia told Airways Arabia it sees several different roles for the airships. One is transporting fresh flowers from Kenya, a major growing region for the supply of florists, up the East African coast to Dubai.
Dubai is already an air freight distribution point for fresh flowers all over Europe. More broadly, air freight is forecast to contribute 37.5% to the emirate’s GDP by the end of this decade.
Airships Arabia’s planned flights from Kenya will take much longer than conventional aircraft (around 24 hours versus five), but the company says that the airships offer a key advantage for flower transport.
When carrying a light but bulky cargo such as flowers, a conventional aircraft bulks out before it loads out, something that will not happen with a hybrid airship.
Flowers aren’t all that Airships Arabia is focusing on. The company told Airways News that Dubai would be a convenient jumping-off point for outsize cargoes for activities in Africa such as mining or mineral exploration.
‘Hybrid airships’ are the modern reiteration of the great zeppelins that for a brief period in the 1930s promised to be the future of air travel.
Such plans came to a precipitous halt after the destruction of several in devastating fires, caused by their use of highly-inflammable hydrogen to create lift. The most famous example is of course the Hindenburg, which exploded on live television in the late 1930s.
The modern hybrid designs are effectively inflated flying wings that produce a sizeable percentage of their lift from their aerodynamic shape, along with helium, which isn’t flammable.
Photo credit: Airships Arabia
04/28/2016 – Arabian Supply Chain