THEY are cigar-shaped airships that first took to the skies in the early 20th century, until their slow speed - and a famous disaster - halted their advance. Now the Zeppelin is set to fly once more as scientists view it as a potential transportation solution amid the battle against climate change.

The Zeppelin?

The airship takes its name from German Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin, who patented his design in 1895. The first flight was in 1900 and 10 years later, the Count founded the world's first airline to promote his airships, offering pleasure flights, carrying 20 passengers.

They were used in World War One?

The German Army used Zeppelins, mainly in reconnaissance missions, due to their vulnerability to air fire and shells unless flown at high altitudes. But they were still a deadly feature of World War One, raining bombs upon London.

On one night alone in May 1915, seven were killed and 35 wounded after 90 bombs and 30 grenades were dropped from a Zeppelin over the city.


The Hindenburg was the largest rigid airship ever constructed at 245 metres long, with a maximum speed of 84 mph. Designed to be filled with helium, it was filled with highly flammable hydrogen because of US export restrictions against Nazi Germany.

Disaster struck?

In 1936, the Hindenburg began a commercial air service across the North Atlantic, carrying 1,002 passengers on 10 scheduled round trips between Germany and America. But in May 1937, while landing in New Jersey on the second of its crossings, it burst into flames, killing 35 of the 97 aboard, and one of the ground crew, marking the end of the use of rigid airships in commercial flight.

But now?

Amid the growth in awareness of the impact of aviation on the environment, travellers are increasingly looking for more climate friendly solutions to help them reach their destinations.

And firms looking to break into the field commercially are focusing on hybrid airships that combine aerodynamics and buoyancy, using less fuel than plane travel.

The benefits?

An airship produces 80 to 90 per cent fewer emissions than conventional aircraft.

Global aerospace firm Lockheed Martin say hybrid airships will "make it possible to affordably deliver heavy cargo and personnel to remote locations around the world”, adding that by “burning less than one tenth the fuel of a helicopter per ton, the Hybrid Airship will redefine sustainability for the future”.

The Airlander?

That’s the name of a new a hybrid airship designed and built by British manufacturer Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV), which currently has 10 provisional orders for the aircraft, priced at $72 million each. The original prototype was funded by the US military.

Its first commercial flight is being planned?

Tickets are now on sale, offering 16 tourists the opportunity to see the North pole by flying on the 92-metre long airship, nicknamed "The flying bum” due to its shape. Travellers will board the world's longest aircraft in 2023 for a day tour at a cost of around £50,000.