Originally introduced in WW I as surveillance platforms, lighter than air vehicles are making a comeback even in competition with drones. For one thing they can carry a lot of stuff including people and stay on station like forever
In the meantime, his surveillance-blimp business is thriving. A new, larger Sky Dragon, capable of carrying two thousand pounds of cameras and other spy equipment, just went into production. Customers in the Middle East are using Aeros equipment to monitor oil fields, and the Ukrainian government just signed a deal for an entire “integrated Ukrainian border-protection system.”Jeanne Marie Laskas at the New Yorker has an interesting article on the competition to beef up the blimps (or zeppelins as the case may be) to large cargo delivery vehicles (like north of 20 tons).
The point, which Boyd makes in a promotional video, “The Road Not Needed,” is that “more than two-thirds of the world’s land area and more than half the world’s population has no direct access to paved roads.” Modern airships could take off and land with the precision of helicopters and deliver entire warehouses, drilling rigs, or fully stocked factories. Today’s airship designers share a vision: magnificent amounts of trucking going on in the sky—regular convoys of enormous airships carrying timber, coal, wind turbines, prefabricated homes, or an entire summer harvest, puttering gently along at about a hundred miles an hour, ten thousand feet over our heads.There are applications which has kept the airship business running, advertising and surveillance, but cargo is the elephant, and indeed to compete with air and sea delivery on a general basis, the amount of cargo delivered has to be enormous.or the need has to be to a region where roads and airports are rare such as the Arctic, or the Amazon.
Airships are faster than sea transport and slower than airplanes. They can be designed to be fuel efficient compared to both moreover solar powered designs have been at least proposed. Perhaps a partial solution.