This concept art shows China’s 18,000 cubic meter Yuanmeng airship 20km above the ground (and for some reason, off the coast of the Mid Atlantic U.S.). One of the highest flying airships, the Yuanmeng can provide wide area surveillance and communications capability.
On October 13, 2015, China started the 24 hour test flight of its largest airship yet in Xilinhot, Inner Mongolia. The Yuanmeng has a volume of 18,000 cubic meters, length of 75 meters and 22 meters height. It will fly to 20,000 meters to test its control systems and near space flight performance. With solar panels installed on its top, the Yuanmeng will be one of the largest solar powered airships in existence, using solar power to drive its rotors will save additional weight in order to increase payload. Solar power also gives it a total flight endurance of six months. The Yuanmeng’s 5-7 ton payload of data relays, datalinks, cameras and other sensors would also be powered by the sun. Continue reading