In a development that’s emblematic of the massive wealth inequality in Silicon Valley, the Guardian on Friday revealed new details about the "secret" airship that Google co-founder Sergey Brin is building at an old Nasa airbase in Santa Clara County.
According to the report, which cited anonymous sources who couldn’t speak on the record because of non-disclosure agreements, Brin intends to use the airship to deliver food and supplies to desperate people in “remote locations”– a task that’s uniquely suited for an airship because airships don’t require airports – or any infrastructure, really – to travel from point A to point B.
Of course, when the luxurious “air yacht” isn’t being used for these humanitarian purpose, it will serve as a leisure vessel for Brin’s families and friends.
Here are a few more details about the airship reported by The Guardian:The airship’s 200-meter size would make it the largest airship in the modern age, though It would stil be smaller than the Hindenburg Zeppelins of the 1930s and the American navy airship USS Macon, which was once based in the very same hangars where Brin’s aircraft is now being built.
- Brin’s airship will rely on a system of internal gas bladders to create the ballast necessary to keep the ship anchored to the ground while heavy loads are being offloaded.
- In November 2014, a Google-controlled company called Planetary Ventures signed a 60-year lease for more than 1,000 acres of Moffett Field at Nasa’s Ames airbase, where construction on the airship could safely begin. The leased area, which is located near Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., includes the base’s three largest airship hangers.
- Brin’s airship was originally intended to use hydrogen as a lifting gas instead of helium because hydrogen is much cheaper and provides 10% more lift. But the Federal Aviation Administration requires all airships to use non-flammable lifting gases, which rules out highly volatile hydrogen. The gas notoriously caused the 1937 crash of the Hindenburg over New Jersey, which killed 36.
- In early 2015, Brin asked aerospace engineer Alan Weston to build a one-tenth scale model of a variable buoyancy airship to test its air worthiness. Those flight tests apparently went well.
Bloomberg reported back in April that construction on the airship had begun, again citing anonymous sources.