A small US company developing a low-cost airship for aerial advertising has won its first "significant" outside investment. VentureNet Capital Group has taken an equity position in Temecula, California-based SkyMedia Airships under a deal to provide the fledgling firm with management and marketing services.

SkyMedia was established to develop a lighter-than-air craft that is less expensive to manufacture and operate than conventional helium-filled airships. The company's design uses hot air, but with a system of air jets that, when the envelope is sealed and pressurised, allows the craft to operate like a conventional airship.

The airship is deflated for road transport between advertising assignments in a custom-built trailer. SkyMedia says it takes a ground crew of three to inflate and launch the single-pilot airship. The craft features a digital projection system which uses the airship's envelope as the screen.

SkyMedia has built and flown a 20m (65ft)-long prototype and plans to fly the first full-size, 42m-long airship early next year.

Source: Flight International