Are solar-powered airships the future of cargo delivery?

New technology offers us a look at the green future of aviation and cargo shipping.

The French company Flying Whales aims to deliver cargo to remote areas via airships by 2023.
Photo courtesy of Flying Whales.
  • A solar-powered airship built by a U.K.-based company could be a groundbreaking way to freight cargo internationally with lower emissions, and a big step towards a 100 percent renewable world.
  • Varialift's airship will use helium gas to lift off, which is a great deal safer than the hydrogen that airships of the past used.
  • It's been estimated that the cost of the Varialift aircraft would be comparable to a jumbo jet.
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NASA
  • The experimental X-57 Maxwell is the agency's first all-electric plane.
  • It will also be the first manned X-plane that NASA has tested in decades.
  • Electric planes could help to significantly lower the environmental costs of flying, but it'll likely be at least a decade before these aircraft hit the commercial market.
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The world needs carbon-neutral flying. Here’s how to bring it one step closer.

We need electric planes, sustainable aviation fuels, and hybrid propulsion now, not later.

In the year when the Swedish word "flygskam" (flight-shaming) hit the news in Europe, public concern about carbon emissions from aviation is endangering the sector's social license to operate.

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Why a V-shaped plane may make a whole lot of sense

When it comes to climate change, today's airplane pollution is a real problem.

Image source: TU Delft
  • A new partnership between the Delft University of Technology and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines has been announced along with a plan for a striking new plane.
  • The Flying-V is a plane that's all wing, and promises a 20% reduction in fuel use.
  • Riding in the Flying-V as it banks may not be for the faint of heart.
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Magnetic north isn’t even close to where it used to be

You won't notice much of a difference unless you're north of the 55th parallel, though.

(Kirk Geisler/hobbit/Shutterstock/Big Think)
  • Magnetic north has recently been moving north from Canada to Russia in a cold hurry.
  • It's moving about 33 miles a year instead of the usual 7 miles.
  • World navigation models had to updated ahead of schedule to catch up with it.
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