Heather Exner-Pirot is director of energy, natural resources and environment at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute.
The Goodyear blimp. The zeppelin. The Hindenburg. Mention airships, and those icons are the average Canadian’s frame of reference – if they have one at all. But the concept that we thought peaked a century ago is making a comeback, with investors and researchers circling.
Airships require very little fuel, can carry heavy payloads, have long ranges, and are able to take off and land vertically, or not land at all. The vast distances, hefty cargo costs and limited infrastructure of Northern Canada are a fantastic setting for airships. A new era for airships is on the horizon.
An airship is a lighter-than-air aircraft that uses helium or hydrogen to lift it off the ground. Whereas blimps are essentially a balloon that can deflate, airships are rigid (they have a frame) and dirigible (they are powered and steerable).
If we’ve been able to go decades without airships, why bring them back? One attraction is their light carbon footprint, a huge advantage in a world striving for net zero. Generating very few emissions, they can fill the gap between sea cargo, which is slower, and air freight, which is more expensive.
For the rest of this column: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/commentary/article-canada-zeppelin-technology-northern-sector/