Central European Journal of Engineering

, Volume 2, Issue 2, pp 189–200 | Cite as

A critical review of propulsion concepts for modern airships

  • Galina IlievaEmail author
  • José C. Páscoa
  • Antonio Dumas
  • Michele Trancossi
Review Article


After a few decades in which airships have been depromoted to the level of being only considered as a mere curiosity they seem now to reappear. The main reasons for this are related to the recent progress in technology of materials, aerodynamics, energy and propulsion. Airships are also presenting themselves as green friendly air vehicles, in particular if solar powered airships are considered. Their ability to remain aloft for long time periods have also expanded the range of mission profiles for which they are suited. Herein we have concentrated on a critical overview of propulsion mechanisms for airships. These include a detailed overview of past, present, and future enabling technologies for airship propulsion. Diverse concepts are revisited and the link between the airship geometry and flight mechanics is made for diverse propulsion system mechanisms.


Airship Buoyancy Lift gas Propulsion Review 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. [1]
    Li Y., Nahon M., Sharf I., Airship dynamics modeling: A literature review, Progr. Aero. Sci., 2011, 47, 217–239CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. [2]
    Ardema M.D., Young A.D., Missions and vehicle concepts for modern, propelled, lighter-than-air vehicles, AGARD Report No 724, Advisory Group for Aerospace Research and Development, 1985Google Scholar
  3. [3]
    Liao L., Pasternak I., A review of airship structural research and development, Progr. Aero. Sci., 2009, 45, 83–96CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. [4]
    Wang X., Shan X., Shape optimization of stratosphere airship, J. Aircraft, 2006, 43(1), 283–286CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. [5]
    Nejati V., Matsuuchi K., Aerodynamics design and genetic algorithms for optimization of airship bodies, JSME International Journal, Series B: Fluids and Thermal Engineering, 2003, 46(4), 610–617CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. [6]
    Mueller J.B., Paluszek M.A., Zhao Y., Development of an aerodynamic model and control law design for a high altitude airship, the AIAA Unmanned Unlimited Conference in Chicago, IL, 2004, 1–17Google Scholar
  7. [7]
    Gammon S., Frye M., Trevino R., Qian C., The development of the tri-turbofan airship model for autonomous flight control research, AIAA modeling and simulation technologies conference and exhibit, AIAA-2006-6620, 2006Google Scholar
  8. [8]
  9. [9]
    Burgess C.P., Airship design, The Ronald Press Company, 1927Google Scholar
  10. [10]
    Goodyear Aerospace, Feasibility study of modern airships, phase II — executive summary, NASA Contractor Report 2922, NASA, 1977Google Scholar
  11. [11]
    McLemore C., Wind-tunnel tests of a 1/20-scale airship model with stern propellers, Tech. Rep. TN D-1026, NASA, 1962Google Scholar
  12. [12]
    Cornish J.J., Boatwright D.W., Application of full scale boundary layer measurements to drag reduction of airships, Tech. Rep. Report No. 28, Mississippi State University, Aerophysics Department, 1960Google Scholar
  13. [13]
    Lutz T., Leinhos D., Wagner S., Theoretical investigations of the flowfield of airships with a stern propeller, Proceedings International Airship Convention and Exhibition, 1996, pp. 1–12Google Scholar
  14. [14]
    Lutz T., Funk P., Jakobi A., Wagner S., Calculation of the propulsive efficiency for airships with stern thruster, 14th AIAA Lighter-Than-Air Technical Committee Convention and Exhibition, 2001Google Scholar
  15. [15]
    Hirner A., Dorn F., Lutz T., Krämer E., Improvement of propulsive efficiency by dedicated stern thruster a design, 7th AIAA Aviation Technology, Integration and Operations Conference (ATIO), No. AIAA 2007-7702, 2007, pp. 1–8Google Scholar
  16. [16]
    Goldschmied F.R., Integrated hull design, boundarylayer control, and propulsion of submerged bodies, Journal of Hydronautics, 1967, Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. 1–11CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. [17]
    Goldschmied F.R., Wind tunnel demonstration of an optimized LTA system with 65 power reduction and neutral static stability, in AIAA Paper 83-1981, 1983Google Scholar
  18. [18]
    Elfes A., Bueno S., Bergerman M., Paiva E., Ramos J., Robotic airships for exploration of planetary bodies with an atmosphere:autonomy challenges, Autonomous Robots, 2003, Vol. 14, pp. 147–164zbMATHCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. [19]
    Dorrington G.E., Concept options for the aerial survey of titan, Adv. Space Res., 2011, Vol. 47, No. 1, pp. 1–19CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. [20]
    Pascoa J., Xisto C., Goettlich E., Performance assessment limits in transonic 3d turbine stage blade rows using a mixing-plane approach, J. Mech. Sci. Tech., 2011, Vol. 24, pp. 2035–2042CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. [21]
    Pascoa J., Mendes A., Gato L., A fast iterative inverse method for turbomachinery blade design, Mechanical Research Communications, 2009, Vol. 36, pp. 630–637CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. [22]
    AUGURRosAeroSystems, 2010,
  23. [23]
    Kaley N., The modern airship: A review of 40 years of airship golfier, Technical-Scientific Journal on Modern Aerostatic Problems, development, 2003, Vol. 2, pp. 1–12, Google Scholar
  24. [24]
    Martínez F., Study of a zero-emission airship transport system based on the geostrophic fligth concept, Tech. Rep., Universitat Politécnica de Catalunya, 2011Google Scholar
  25. [25]
    Goodey T.J., Steam LTA — past, present and future, in 4th International Airship Convention and Exhibition, Cambridge, England, July 2002, pp. 1–17Google Scholar
  26. [26]
    Rapert R.M., A heat transfer model for a heated helium airship, Master’s thesis, Naval Postgraduate School, 1987Google Scholar
  27. [27]
    Colozza A., Initial feasibility assessment of a high altitude long endurance airship, Tech. Rep. NASA/CR-2003-212724 36, 2003Google Scholar
  28. [28]
    Vorachek J.J., A comparison of several very high altitude station keeping balloon concepts, in Proc. 6th AFCRL Scientific Balloon Symposium, AFCRL 70-0543, 1970, pp. 283–286Google Scholar
  29. [29]
    Hugh B.-S., Tom swift and his electric airship, IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Magazine, 2011, Vol. 26, No. 10, pp. 4–11CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. [30]
    Dumas A., Trancossi M., Madonia M., Giuliani I., Multibody advanced airship for transport, SAE International, 2011, DOI: 10.4271/2011-01-2786Google Scholar
  31. [31]
    Dumas A., Pancaldi F., Anzillotti F., Trancossi M., High altitude platforms for telecommunications: design methodology, SAE International, No. 09ATC-0010, 2009Google Scholar
  32. [32]
    Dumas A., Anzillotti S., Madonia M., Trancossi M., Effects of altitude on photovoltaic production of hydrogen, Proceedings of the 5th International Conference on Energy Sustainability, ESFuelCell2011-54624, 2011Google Scholar
  33. [33]
    Lutz T., Funk P., Jakobi A., Wagner S., Summary of aerodynamic studies on the Lotte airship, Presented at the 4th International Airship Convention and Exhibition, July 28–31, 2002, Cambridge, England, 2002Google Scholar
  34. [34]
  35. [35]
    Summers M., Lessons from tragedy: a review of the helios difference, 2011, html
  36. [36]
    Lowry J., Fixed-pitch propeller/piston aircraft operations at partial throttle, J. Propul. Power, 1999, Vol. 15, pp. 497–503CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. [37]
    Buerge B., Polar family airships for surveying and cargo, 2011,
  38. [38]
    Kinney J., Frank W. Caldwell and variable-pitch propeller development, 1918–1938, J. Aircraft, 2001, Vol. 38, pp. 967–976CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. [39]
    M-Harada, Distributed multi-propulsion units system, JAXA, NAL RP-2002003, 2003, pp. 10–13Google Scholar
  40. [40]
    Liu P., Duan Z., Ma L., Ma R., Aerodynamics properties and design method of high efficiency-light propeller of stratospheric airships, 2011 International Conference on Remote Sensing, Environment and Transportation Engineering (RSETE), 2011, pp. 8041–8044Google Scholar
  41. [41]
    Pavlecka V., Thrusters for airship control, US patent 4402475, 1983Google Scholar
  42. [42]
    Turner R.C., Notes on ducted fan desing, Aeronautical Research Council Current Papers, 1966, No. 895, p. 44Google Scholar
  43. [43]
    Piolenc F., Wright G., Ducted fan design, 2001,
  44. [44]
    Hochstetler R., Airships for the 21st century, 2010,
  45. [45]
    Kothmann, The kothmann multi-use airship, US patent 6648272b1, 2003Google Scholar
  46. [46]
    Rademacher A.T., Very large luxury airship (VLLA),
  47. [47]
    Wheatley J.B., Simplified aerodynamic analysis of the cyclogiro rotating-wing system, Tech. Rep. 467, NACA, 1933Google Scholar
  48. [48]
    Wheatley J.B., Windler R., Windtunnel tests of a cyclogiro rotor, Tech. Rep. 528, NACA, 1935Google Scholar
  49. [49]
    Kim S.J., Yun C.Y., Kim D., Yoon Y., Park I., Design and performance tests of cycloidal propulsion systems, in 44th AIAA/ASME/ASCE/AHS/ASC Structures, Structural Dynamics, and Materials Conference, No. AIAA-2003-1786, 2003Google Scholar
  50. [50]
  51. [51]
    Jordiand C., Michel S., Fink E., Fish-like propulsion of an airship with planar membrane dielectric elastomer actuators, Bioinspiration Biomimetics, 2010, Vol. 5, DOI:10.1088/1748-3182/5/2/026007Google Scholar
  52. [52]
    Michel S., Bormann A., Jordi C., Fink E., Feasibility studies for a bionic propulsion system of a blimp based on dielectric elastomers, Proc. of SPIE, 2008, Vol. 6927, pp. 1–15Google Scholar
  53. [53]
    Trancossi M., Dumas A., CFD based design of a nozzle able to control angular deflection, in ASME 2011 International Mechanical Engineering Congress & Exposition, 2011, Vol. IMECE2011-65440Google Scholar
  54. [54]
    Mueller J., Paluszek M., Development of an aerodynamic model and control law design for a high altitude airship, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, No. ADA451761, 2004, p. 17Google Scholar

Copyright information

© © Versita Warsaw and Springer-Verlag Wien 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Galina Ilieva
    • 1
    Email author
  • José C. Páscoa
    • 1
  • Antonio Dumas
    • 2
  • Michele Trancossi
    • 2
  1. 1.CAST-Center for Aerospace Science and Technology, Dep. Electromechanical EngineeringUniversity of Beira InteriorCovilhãPortugal
  2. 2.Dipartimento di Scienze e Metodi dell’IngegneriaUniversitá degli Studi di Modena e Reggio EmiliaReggio-EmiliaItaly

Personalised recommendations