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Commonwealth Games 2002

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Monday, 7 January, 2002, 15:49 GMT
India launches ambitious airship project
Zeppelin airship
The crash of a German airship in 1937 affected the development of airships
By the BBC's Ayanjit Sen in Delhi

India's premier engineering institute has launched an ambitious project to develop the country's first airship.


One of the objectives is to explore the possibility of setting up airship transportation networks in areas where rail or road infrastructure is not developed

Dr Rajkumar Pant, Programme Director

It would be possible to fly from one part of India to another in a helium-based vessel if the programme being developed by the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay is successful.

Millions of dollars are being invested in the project which aims to revolutionise transport industry in the country.

The project is being funded by an independent body - Technology, Information, Forecasting and Assessment Council (TIFAC).

Airships are airborne vehicles driven by engines which also control the vehicle in adverse weather conditions.

Advanced model

The first prototype airship is expected to be developed in three years.

Any early Zeppelin airship
The first balloons flew in the 18th century

Earlier designs used hydrogen but modern airships use inert helium for staying airborne.

Helium is not flammable.

The final prototype airship would be able to fly at 15,000 feet and would be able to carry up to two tons of weight, Dr Pant said.

He said this would be an advanced model as airships elsewhere could not fly over 7,000 feet.

The project would also explore other possible uses of airships including commercial operations in India.

Widespread uses

Dr Pant said airships could be used for advertising, aerial photography and wildlife tracking.

They could also be used for traffic monitoring, aerial surveillance and for relief work during natural calamities, he said.

Experts say airships can prove useful in India in carrying passengers in the absence of good surface transport systems.

Dr Pant said an airship with a capacity of carrying up to 12 passengers could cost more than $6m.

He said there were plans to lease some airships from other countries to increase public awareness in India.

See also:

30 May 00 | Business
Germans reinvent Zeppelin
30 May 00 | Sci/Tech
New airship carries commercial hopes
17 Mar 00 | Europe
Virgin's mine-spy in the sky
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