Best known for floating aimlessly above sports stadiums, and for their slightly comic, bloated shape, blimps are an unlikely subject for a 21st century revival. But after 20 years of development, Lockheed Martin and Hybrid Enterprises are poised to unleash a revolutionary new design that could unlock resources worth billions of dollars across the African continent. The Hybrid Airship is a helium-powered craft that can cover thousands of kilometers in a single journey, with a top speed of 60 knots. The craft can take off and land without a runway, and the cavernous interior can carry loads of 20 tons.

 At the recent African Mining Indaba event in Cape Town, the Airship was presented as a vital asset for mining companies across the continent. Using the tag “No roads, No problem,” promoters emphasized its ability to access remote but lucrative mineral sources. “It will land on water, sand, a field, even ice,” said a Hybrid Enterprises spokesperson.

Hybrid Enterprises hope the ships — which are currently undergoing FAA certification — will be in operation by 2018. The cost of each unit is expected to run to tens of millions of dollars, although the price has not yet been disclosed.


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