The first Zeppelin NT airship destined for the USA powered up for the first time last week at the company's Friedrichshafen factory, as Californian start-up Airship Ventures signed a deal to take delivery in October.
Airship Ventures plans to fly sightseeing and scientific observation flights mainly over San Francisco bay, and is keen to acquire more Zeppelins to expand the service to the East Coast and southern California.
"We have a minimum of three ships in our business model," says chief executive Alexandra Hall. The Zeppelin is the fourth to be built since the new Zeppelin company relaunched the famous airship name in the late 1990s.
The airship differs from other helium-filled powered blimps in that it has a semi-rigid structure to which three rotatable engines are attached, allowing better manoeuvrability and vertical take-off and landing.