The Federal Aviation Administration gave Lockheed Martin the greenlight for the defense contractor’s hybrid airships, which it plans to roll out as early as 2018.
Lockheed says its airships can transport heavy cargo to remote locations, burn significantly less fuel than conventional aircraft and land on any flat surface, including sand, snow and water.
“The approval of the certification plan represents an important risk reduction milestone for our customers,” program manager Robert Boyd said in a statement.
The new LMH1 hybrid airship, filled mostly with helium, can carry 20 tons of cargo, but can easily be scaled to roughly the size of a football field with 500 tons of capacity, Reuters reported. The exact dimensions have not yet been given.
It has a fuel capacity of 5,000 gallons with a range of 1,400 nautical miles, and can cruise at a speed of 60 knots.
The airship’s four hovercraft-like landing pads allow it to set down on flat land without being required to be moored on large towers like traditional airships.
Lockheed says the airships can revolutionize the way oil and mining companies haul equipment to remote areas, such as the Arctic, without roads or infrastructure, enabling affordable delivery of heavy cargo and personnel.
The LMH1, prototypes of which have been in development for two decades, will have room for a crew of two, and up to 19 passengers.
Lockheed Martin’s new LMH1 hybrid airship could be rolled out as early as 2018.
Lockheed kicked off sales for the 20-ton variety of the hybrid airship earlier this year and is on track to deliver operational airships by as early as 2018. Current cost estimates are around $40 million.