Design of a Human Powered Airship


Students: G.A.M. Dohmen, N.H. Elferink, A.L. Graveland, J.P. de Jong, A. Kieskamp, M. Klok, L. Le Ngoc, D.R.M.L. Tack, R.H. Vielvoye
Project tutor: ir. P.C. Roling
Coaches: R. Tenzer, ir. G.J. van Zwieten

"Would have been highly risky and, in any case, impossible", is a quote from Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days. Such an endeavor is still a challenge today. Therefore, the design of a human powered airship for a round the world flight will be presented here.
Lighter than air vehicles such as balloons and airships primarily use the difference in density between the surrounding atmosphere and the lifting gas inside a large cavity. This in contrast to aerodynamically lifted craft like airplanes, which create lift by moving an airfoil through the surrounding air. An airship is a buoyant aircraft that can be steered and propelled through the air. Airships were the first aircraft capable of performing controlled powered flights over large distances. They were most popular from roughly 1900 to the 1930s.
Over time, their capabilities were surpassed by those of airplanes, initiating a decline in use. They also suffered a series of high profile accidents. The most well known example is the accident of the Hindenburg. Today the airship is used for advertisement, TV-coverage of major events, as a sensor platform and for many other applications.
For human powered applications, the airship has the advantage that, unlike helicopters and conventional aircraft, no power is required to keep it in the air. Power is only needed for speed and control. This makes it an ideal aircraft for human powered flight around the world.
Based on the advantages and opportunities the mission need statement was formulated as follows: Design a two-seater human-powered airship for a round the world flight, making at maximum one stop per continent and without making use of the Jet Stream.
So the objective of the project is to propose a conceptual design after the period of ten weeks. The design process is characterised by multiple phases. After defining a clear mission statement a list of all possible requirements was generated. This is followed by a study and analysis to identify all possible design options. Three different concepts were generated from all these options. Using multiple trade-off tables a final concept was selected. During the final design phase this concept is worked out in detail. Also the operational and logistic aspects of the mission, such as the flight route, were further investigated and worked out for the design.

The paper of this project is available as a PDF-document here.

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