Autonomous Airships: The Future of Deliveries

Jeff Bezos once announced that Amazon would use drones for product deliveries. Many thought he was joking. Recently, Rwanda has been trending for delivering medical supplies via a drone. The problem, however, is that drones can’t carry much and they are invisible which creates safety challenges.


Enter Autonomous Airships – which are now seen as the future of deliveries, here’s why. An autonomous airship is an unmanned aerial robotic platform possessing six or more variable-function control inputs. It is a battery powered aircraft that carries at least 5kg and are autopilot driven and economical as they can carry more products and they are safe since they are more visible. They are balloon-like and therefore can be visible to other flying objects. They are about to take over the South African skies.


The history of airship starts in 1852 when Henri Giffard built the first powered airship. A non-rigid airship, or blimp, differs from a rigid airship (Zeppelin airship) in that it does not have a rigid structure that holds the airbag in shape. The autonomous airship has many benefits compared to other Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), such as winged planes and helicopters. It does not require any motor action to maintain a certain altitude and position in the space as it relies on low-density gas inside the envelope to balance its own weight. With this feature, the airship could conduct a continuous aerial operation with very low energy consumption. Advantages of airships made over the last two decades in upgrading the first human practical air vehicle have been rather overshadowed by space programs, satellites orbiting the earth, jet mass transport, and supersonic aircraft. More recently they have received special attention for environmental applications such as research in biodiversity, ecology, climatology, and agriculture.


A South African born entrepreneur, Spencer Horne, has just created an autonomous airship and has plans to use it across the continent.


Spencer is a Harvard graduate who studied Mechanical Engineering. He has participated in several programmes that are aimed at the development of tech startups. Some of these programmes are spearheaded by the LaunchLab. He is currently participating in one of the programmes facilitated by LaunchLab together with Santam and aimed at creating a safer South Africa.


He is also the fellow of the  African Leadership Academy which recognises young entrepreneurs who have developed and implemented innovative solutions to social challenges or started successful businesses with their community.


Spencer believes that Autonomous Airships (AA) are more suitable for economical and safe deliveries. He foresees that AAs will be instrumental in delivering aid materials to remote areas. He founded CloudLine to realise the vision of improving deliveries in remote areas. CloudLine, a tech startup founded by Spencer Horne, is getting ready to revolutionise logistics in South Africa and beyond. This is one tech startup that is worthy of funding. If CloudLine succeeds in its vision of revolutionising logistics, more people (even in remote areas) will have better access to goods and services.


Published on: 31 May 2019 by The Infonomist