With all the talk about reviving the airship in the recent years – it seems like this peaceful and spacious mode of travel (as compared to the airlines which are still desperately trying to trim half-inches of leg rooms) could be back for a rebirth after the much-documented Hindenburg disaster. If they do come back, I’d wish for it to be in the form of this ‘Manned Cloud’, a concept airship developed together by Jean-Marie Massaud and the French national aerospace research body ONERA.
Airships are certainly no match for traditional airplanes in speed or efficiency – but it’s certainly much more relevant in leisure purposes like an ‘air cruise’. Capable of hovering at much lower altitudes (typically 500-1000 meters above ground), it brings being-in-the-air as an experience in travel itself, rather than simply a means-to-an-end. As described by Massaud:
Living in the sky, watching the Earth from above. Rediscovering the marvel of traveling, experiencing contemplation. Exploring the world without trace
Manned Cloud is an alternative project around leisure and travelling in all its form, economic and experimental, still with the idea of lightness, human experience and life scenarios as the guiding principles. The spiral of Archimedes is the driving force of this airship in the form of a whale that glides through the air.
I thought the form had the peace, grace and elegance associated with this mode of air travel. It sort of brings us close to nature again in appreciation.