The US Federal Aviation Administration has approved a certification plan developed by Lockheed Martin to facilitate the introduction of hybrid airships into routine cargo-carrying operations.

Due to their lack of use, this class of aircraft does not fit with any regulations currently outlined by the FAA, so Lockheed has been working with the administration and Transport Canada to help shape what the standards surrounding their use should look like.

This criteria was adopted in April 2013, since when Lockheed has developed a project-specific certification plan to define how certification would be implemented. This has now been approved, the company announced on 17 November.

“The approval of the certification plan represents an important risk-reduction milestone for our customers,” programme manager Robert Boyd says. “Completing this step took dedication from both the Lockheed Martin system experts and the FAA, who worked meticulously through thousands of detailed items to achieve consistent and accurate verification statements covering the entire aircraft.”

Hybrid Airship article

Lockheed Martin

In June, Lockheed introduced the LMH1 hybrid airship, a commercialised variant of its half-sized P-791 demonstrator that it first flew in 2006. It also announced that it had entered into an agreement with Hybrid Enterprises to market the system and act as the sales representative for the airship – specifically a 20t variant that it hopes to be able to deliver in 2018, should a customer be interested.

Meanwhile, the US Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office has awarded Lockheed $4.6 million for the continued development of its collapsible-wing Vector Hawk unmanned air vehicle into a maritime role. This will see it carry out a full operational test at sea.

Announced in early November, this funding supports the 18-month second phase of Vector Hawk’s development, which will see the UAV advanced to be deployed from an integrated or free-standing canister on a maritime vessel.

Vector Hawk UAV mock-up - LM

Lockheed Martin

A phase one contract was awarded in 2014, which saw the air vehicle and canister developed and resulted in an offshore capability demonstration.

The reconfigurable, 2.1kg (4lb) Vector Hawk is able to operate as a fixed-wing, rotary-wing and tiltrotor UAV, and can auto-land when there is a loss of communications or low power.