Northrop Grumman just started the first flight of a giant surveillance airship, that was built for the U.S. Army. Northrop Grumman’s Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle is a helium-filled blimp staffed with all kind of spy sensors and a steady link to its control center. It’s around the size of a football-field and offers long flight times but low costs. It could also be used for transport purposes. Its first flight will take place in Lakehurst, before the 300-foot-long airship will fly south to Florida to integrate a gondola containing the blimp’s cameras and radios.
This is one of the latest tries to recreate the blimp technology for military purposes.
Of course the largest ever built blimp was the Zeppelin LZ 129 „Hindenburg“, that had a duralumin structure, incorporating 15 Ferris wheel-like bulkheads along its length and offered a overall length of 245 m (803 ft). It traveled with around 50-70 passengers along with 50 crew members at a max speed of 135 km/h (85 mph). The Hindenburg had to be filled with 200,000 m3 (7,062,000 ft3) Hydrogen or Helium.
One of the most fascinating facts for me is that it was possible to directly board the blimp at the top of the Empire State Building in the middle of Manhatten. Beat that with a modern aircraft!!