Popular Science introduces us to “The Plimp,” a vehicle that hopes to be a nearly unsinkable aircraft:
With a rigid, winged body held underneath a massive helium-containing envelope, their craft is billed as a fusion of both airplane and blimp technology. It is called “Plimp.”
Egan Airships, the company formed by twin brothers James and Joel Egan, debuted their Plimp at the InterDrone exposition earlier this month. The first model is unmanned, making it a plane blimp drone, built within FAA limits. Because half of the weight of the vehicle is offset by the helium envelope (the big, blimp-like pouch on the top of the vehicle), the craft is larger than a typical drone: 28 feet long, and 7 feet in diameter. The Egan brothers first seriously explored the possibility of building such a craft in 1999, but materials at the time were too heavy to make it all work. In 2012, they revisited the idea, with an airframe made of carbon composites, which are light and strong enough to form working Plimps.
Egan Airships claims that the envelope is strong enough that it won’t break even if someone stabs a knife into it, or shoots at it with a rifle or a shotgun. With envelope intact, in an unpowered descent, Plimp’s downward speed will top out at 9 mph, which is survivable for all involved. That’s a big selling point for future, larger, people-carrying Plimp designs, and it’s also important for the drone model since it means any expensive equipment attached to the drone is highly likely to survive any possible crash.
For the initial, unmanned version, which will carry a price tag in the low six figures, Egan Airships are looking at a range of customers, from farmers who want to more efficiently survey large fields, to the Coast Guard and the Department of Homeland Security, for patrolling vast empty swathes of land and sea.