An airship is to be tested as a diamond prospector for the first time, the result of a deal between German company ZLT Zeppelin and South African diamond mining company De Beers, writes Julian Moxon.

The 85m (280ft)-long, semi-rigid NT-07 airship will begin operations in September, working on research projects for De Beers, in particular looking for geological features that might lead to the discovery of diamonds. It will be equipped with thermal-imaging cameras and flown at low level, at night, when temperature differences between rock formations are more pronounced.

The airship is one of three so far constructed by ZLT and is the prototype seen at the Paris air show in June. The other two are series-production aircraft, one of which was sold to Japan’s Nippon Airship in June 2004 for sightseeing and advertising operations.

Source: Flight International