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21th Century AirShip

industrial, modular, profitable, robust and airworthy

As Kelly Johnson would have done it, let's first lay out a list of requirements for the quest of creating a successful product design:


  1. We ration the use of materials to a minimum so as to reduce costs. (Build smaller, cheaper ships)

  2. We build a manufacturing plan that takes into consideration the current and projected high costs of highly qualified Human Resources and we design the ship’s architecture to optimize their tasks.

  3. We build ships from modules that enables the assembly process to meet the needs of various customer’s payload requirements.

  4. We build ships that are more “industrial” in their design, more robust to take the continuous beatings of cargo operations in remote areas where major repairs are impossible to tackle.

  5. And, we design ships that are airworthy and that can be successfully certified.


Here is a proposal for such 21st century AirShip:


First thing first… a modern day AirShip cannot be of conventional rigid architecture. It goes against all previous 5 commandments. This is not a religion thing… we only stick to 5!

On the other hand, making it a Non-Rigid Airship would bring unfavourable headwinds from the various regulatory agencies and maybe even from potential customers themselves.

So… we’re left with a Semi-Rigid configuration but nobody implied that we needed to follow the classic recipe of putting a rigid keel on what is basically a Non-Rigid Airship.

To do that:


  1. we need to remove any exo-primary-structures.

  2. All peripheral gas cells must be pressurized to remove any additional aerodynamic outer skins.

  3. On pressurized cells, we need to eliminate their structural role.

  4. The ship’s primary architecture must make it easily modular and quickly built and assembled.

  5. It’s cargo compartment must be made “industrial grade” and readily transition to the ship’s ubiquitous ultra-light structural configuration.


Thus was born at ATHENA, in 2017, the Vertical Spine Semi-Rigid AirShip architecture.


The Vertical Spine ship is designed around a tall rectangular central hollow “Spar” that brings bending resisting capabilities to, for lack of a better word, infinite stiffness!

Two symmetrical pressurized gas cells are tied to each side of this box to make up the aerodynamic surface and an equilibrium gas cell in inserted inside its hollow cavity to occupy all remaining buoyant volume. That’s it!

The ship presented here is 60 meters high, 53 meters wide and 185 meters long (600 ft) and has a total payload capacity of 100 Metric tons. It is built of 4 identical middle modules, each one capable of lifting 20 Metric tons of payloads and a Bow and Stern common module with each having a 10 Metric tons payload capacity that can be reallocated into embarked systems for military applications as an example. 

With so much stiffness capabilities, it is very possible to stack a dozen of those modules to bring total payloads in excess of 250 Metric tons. 

You can review all the parameters clearly labeled on the Module screenshot which are automatically calculated from our 3D model.

The pressurized gas cells are relieved of their structural duties and solely concentrate on lifting the ship and providing a smooth aerodynamic outer surface. To accomplish that last task, vertical elliptical Ballonets are mounted on each side and continuously expanded and collapsed by simple actuated  rotary arms that move like barn doors. They take very little energy compared to high output air pumps and can  vary each gas cells volume at very high rates.

The Vertical Spine box is built with Carbon Fiber double skin corrugated panels that are extremely light but very stiff and strong at the same time. They are all flat and can be manufactured on large flat tables at high production  rates. They are later bonded and fastened together with aeronautical grade permanent fasteners and adhesives. 

The pressurized gas cells are tied to the rigid structure with a combination of Velcro and positive locks. The Entire box is stabilized by the gas cells sandwiching each of its vertical walls with opposite pressures.

The opened bottom of the Vertical Spine box offers a perfect recessed cargo bay that only needs protective metal sheetings to carry gantry crane heavy punctual loads and provide shielding against normal operation impacts.


ATHENA is freely offering its concept to the world because we are tired of seeing this still incubating industry fighting each other and sabotaging the will of newcomers by holding all possible avenues though an over abondance of patents that never see the light of days.

As a word of caution, we may think that we have come up with a new and novel breakthrough in this “old” field of engineering but such concept may have already been researched and patented before. 

We are rarely the first ones to come up with novel ideas!

ATHENA's Vertical-Spine Semi-Rigid AirShip

Below is what a true 21st Century AirShip should look like.
In this case, that would be a 100 Metric tons payload Ship built-up of 6 modules, 2 common ones at each end and 4 identical mid-ones.

20 Metric tons payloads capable Modules that you stack...

You have a payload requirement of 100 MT, you stack 4 of them; 150 MT... you stack 7... you want 300 MT... 15...
Hell, if you stack enough, you can probably come-up with a floating bridge between 2 distant cities!

An hybrid between a Blimp and an equilibrium Ship

Two symmetric Side pressurized gas cells are tied all around their inner wall to the Vertical-Spine Box and one central equilibrium gas bag is freely placed inside the Box cavity. We're using pretty much all the  available volume!

Vertical-Spine composites mat'l box of "infinite" bending stiffness... and beyond!

The secret sauce of this concept is without any doubt this huge but light hollow box. It surprisingly only represents around 23% of the weight of the total ship. Shown highlighted are a pair of Ballonet Tensors 50 meters high.

A Cargo bay as solid as a.... Ford F150!

Presented here and calculated in the total Module's weight are 1/8th inch thick Stainless Steel sheetings that protect the potential contact areas.

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