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1st Lieutenant
May 30, 2011
Cape Canaveral
AT LAST! A fast low cost way to ship ping pong balls from coast to coast! Oh! The Humanity!

From Flying Magazine

Pathfinder 1, the airship from LTA Research, has made its public debut. According to, the prototype electric airship was unveiled earlyWednesday morning at Moffett Field (KNUQ) in Sunnyvale-Mountain View, California, in the heart of Silicon Valley.

According to, Pathfinder 1 is a proof of concept design. Work began on the next-generation airship shortly after LTA Research was founded in 2016. The company, backed by Google co-founder Sergey Brin, is dedicated to developing a green energy, zero-carbon transport airship capable of carrying cargo and passengers.

According to, the ship will undergo local test flights, and then be relocated to Akron, Ohio, another hotbed of LTA development, where LTA Research is allegedly planning the development of an even larger airship, Pathfinder 3.

According to the technology specifications on, the rigid airship measures 408 feet, 5 inches long. For comparison a Boeing 737-200 measures 102 feet in length. While the ship definitely looks like its Zeppelin predecessors, it is constructed of modern materials and features innovative engineering. For starters, the ship uses 12 electric motors developed in collaboration with Pipistrel. Control is done via a fly-by-wire system developed by LTA. The gondola, developed by Zeppelin, features a joystick and sensor feedback data supplied to the 12 motors and four fin rudders to control the ship.

Pathfinder 1 has 13 helium-filled bags made from ripstop nylon base fabric with a urethane covering.

Lidar sensors continuously and accurately calculate the volume of helium in the gas cells. This technology was developed in Akron to help pilots to balance the airship, track performance and ultimately operate more safely.

The outer skin, tested by LTA teams in Gardenerville, Nevada, noted that the Teldar material is described as lightweight, strong and nonflammable, UV resistant, and blocks visible light. The ship is painted white, which helps reflect and dissipate heat.

The interior of the airship consists of 13 circular main frames that make up the ribs. These are constructed of 3,000 welded titanium hubs and 10,000 multi-ply carbon fiber reinforced carbon tubes.

The landing gear was adapted from the gear of the Zeppelin NT and is beefier, as Pathfinder 1 is a larger ship and designed to carry heavier loads.
According to information posted on, Pathfinder 1 will spend the next year undergoing ground and flight testing, much of which will be done inside Hangar 2 at Moffett. Eventually, the testing will move outdoors. Much of the testing will mark the first time LTA inventions like its lidar monitoring system are implemented in real-world conditions.

Screenshot 2023-11-13 at 16-16-59 LTA Pathfinder Debuts - FLYING Magazine.png
I've been following this with interest. It's intriguing me as to how this turns out as there are and have been lots of so-called resurgences of LTA, all with the same predictable end, lack of finances and an inability to overcome the problems of these types of vehicles. Despite my interest I believe that bringing back airships is a bit like bringing back the ox and cart as a means of transport, as even with modern technologies and sophisticated 21st Century solutions to various issues, you still are using an ox and cart as a means of transport, with all the issues that come with using an ox and cart as a means of transport. All the modern technologies in the world won't detract from the peculiarities and limitations of LTA.
I'm guessing LTA is not coming back the way I once hoped. I do believe, though, it would be a great basis for heavy lift. Transporting large and heavy equipment to remote areas more economically than large helicopters, for example.

That is certainly what's being proposed for the Pathfinder airships and it does make sense. The biggest limitation to regular commercial operation is the cost of infrastructure, i.e., after every flight, especially if it is lifting big loads, the airship needs lifting gas top ups at the point of operation. A satisfactory means of transporting substantial volumes of helium needs to be supplied. This is only one example of what is required to keep airships in use. I certainly don't want to say it won't happen, but a lot of money is required.
Seeing as how there's no mention of powdered aluminum or doped fabric, how about hydrogen? If the structure is made of non-conducting material...nah, lawyers would have a field day with hydrogen.

They sure would! Let's put it this way, the British operated more than 200 non-rigids and a handful of rigids, but none of the rigids and only one or two of the non-rigids were lost because of the lifting gas exploding. The British exercised far better quality control and handling of hydrogen than the Germans, it seems. Hangars and airships blew up with disturbing regularity in Germany for various reasons, aside from those shot down over the UK. Hydrogen is easier to manufacture in quantity and it has better lifting qualities than helium. Less hydrogen is needed to lift a given load than helium. It is certainly a possibility but I can't see the civil aviation authorities being OK with it given its reputation.
Dean Ing co-wrote a book back in the 1980's entitled, "The Future of Flight." He advocated the building of "Delta Dirigibles" which would use a flatter profile designed to create more lift off the structure, in addition to using LTA techniques. Dr. Ing envisioned Delta Dirigibles replacing many long haul 18 wheelers, and the design certainly seems to have some significant advantages over the 100 year old technology represented by the Zeps.

I suppose the advancements in electric motors and batteries are a driver in modern airships. Electric/battery powered airplanes and transport drones are in production and more are planned, but they are quite short ranged, almost absurdly so in some cases. And aside from the whole AGW furor, if y'all have not shipped anything weighing more than a couple pounds recently you will be shocked at how expensive shipping costs have become.
The British exercised far better quality control and handling of hydrogen than the Germans, it seems.
Uhhh, at the time the US controlled essentially the entire world supply of HE and relations with Nazi Germany were not cordial enough to inspire US sales of the product. Would not think that was a problem with GB.
Uhhh, at the time the US controlled essentially the entire world supply of HE and relations with Nazi Germany were not cordial enough to inspire US sales of the product. Would not think that was a problem with GB.

What does that have anything to do with quality control during the First World War? The Helium Act of 1925 ensured that its production and sale could not be made to those using it for militaristic purposes, but the USA did offer the Zeppelin firm the use of helium for the Hindenburg and Graf Zeppelin II, contrary to common belief, but the Germans turned the offer down. Obviously, the use of helium was not available to either the British or the Germans during WW1. Neither operated airships in WW2, so clearly I'm talking about WW1.


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