The future of low-carbon air freight is airships, according to a former government chief scientific advisor.
Sir David King is stepping up his campaign to get cargo and passengers back on blimps and has been spreading the airship word at conferences.
“An airship with new technology would enable huge carbon savings and needs very little infrastructure,” he said recently.
Mr King, now the director of the Smith School of Enterprise and Environment at Oxford University, has long argued for a return to the use of airships.
He says that some companies, including Lockheed Martin and Boeing, were working on a blueprint for a 21st century airship to carry all kinds of cargo and even passengers.
He said the blimps could be in the air within the next 10 years.
“There are an awful lot of people we talk to who say this is going to happen,” King told a conference. “This is something I believe is going to happen.”
With a speed of almost 80mph and much lower fuel costs, zeppelins could carry much of current air freight, and much more of it.
Research by the Smith School found that one developer stated that their airship could carry twice the weight of strawberries from Spain to the UK than that of a standard cargo plane, with a 90% cut in CO2 emissions.
Other European countries are also bidding to put zeppelins back in the air, including Germany. This year the Zeppelin NT, built from endowment money left behind by German airship pioneer Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin, made its maiden voyage and will make more test flights in the coming months.
One UK firm building airships is SkyCat, which believes airships could take off from reservoirs bordering Heathrow airport.