Solar Airship Design Makes for Zero Emissions Friendly Skies

Ah, to ditch the vagaries of modern air travel for a spacious solar-powered airship! We can’t do it (at least not yet), but in the future, our cargo at least might be able to ditch trucks and tankers for the air, propelled by nothing more than the sun and the prevailing winds of the Jet Stream.

The High Speed Solar Airship, or HSSA, (which comes to us by way of Inhabitat) makes use of 67.2 kW of onboard thin-film solar panels, is designed to fly high at 30,000 feet and could reach daytime speeds of 182 miles per hour on the west-to-east shipping line, thanks to the fast winds of the Jet Stream. Even on the trip back east, the 97 miles per hour average of the HSSA would still beat transport via trucks, thanks in part to its altitude: by flying above bad weather in cold, high-altitude temps, the solar panels are rendered 30% more efficient. The airship reaches its high altitudes via an envelope filled with expandable gas cells.


image via Inhabitat

The inventor of the HSSA has so far only conducted limited flight testing with a 1:20 scale model–waiting, apparently, on the $5 million needed to build out the real thing, which, upon completion, will have a cargo capacity of 120,000 pounds (60 tons). Still, considering the fact that the truck shipping business is worth $222.4 billion annually, it seems almost certain that some capitalistic eco-visionary will feel compelled to produce the cash. (Ted Turner, perhaps?)

Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.


  • Reply April 20, 2010

    Mark Summers

    This is Mark Summers, the designer and builder of this concept vehicle. I was gratified to see this article out there. I believe this design has alot of potential. Currently, I am working on the next stage of design, a small piloted vehicle. Taking the lessons learned from the prototype model, and applying them to a larger scale.

    The piloted vehicle will make 25,000 feet, which is the same altitude the first commercial flight that took advantage of the jet stream flew at.

    While I would love to believe that:
    “it seems almost certain that some capitalistic eco-visionary will feel compelled to produce the cash”
    I’m a believer in a “hope for the best, plan for the worst” philosophy. Currently I am planning on paying for the piloted vehicle myself. While obviously anything can change rapidly in this economy, I am anticipating being able to begin construction within about 1 year.

  • Reply September 20, 2010


    wow..that’s really nice airship design..
    makes use of 67.2 kW of onboard thin-film solar panels..
    keep it up new designs…thank you for posting..

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