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HAV receives UK funding to bring airship back to flight

Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV) has received additional funding from the UK government to further develop its Airlander hybrid airship, as it moves towards an anticipated return to flight.

Under the government’s Regional Growth Fund (RGF), some £297 million ($455 million) was awarded to 63 projects, including HAV’s Airlander development.

“The RGF funding will enable a truly groundbreaking, entirely new type of aircraft to return to flight,” HAV says.

The premise behind the RGF is that government investment in small and medium programmes in the UK will stimulate further investment by private financiers.

“The government backing immediately unlocks equity investment from private individuals and will ultimately lead to commercial agreements with customers, who will continue the funding of the business through a series of trials and demonstrations taking place during 2016,” the company says, suggesting also that this will subsequently lead to future orders.

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Beth Stevenson/Flightglobal

This is the second large government grant that HAV has received, it says, following an Innovate UK grant award in 2014 that funded engine and windtunnel work currently under way.

In August the company told Flightglobal that the date of the relaunch of its flight test campaign had been pushed back due to a delay in raising the required funds to support the effort.

The company was originally due to fly the aircraft from its base in Bedfordshire in December 2014, but an encountered delay in raising the required £5 million ($8 million) pushed it back to May 2015.

Once the first UK-based flight test has been conducted, the aircraft will carry out some 200 flight hours over one to two months to prove its capabilities, after which customer demonstrations are planned to take place, HAV says.

Airlander is derived from a US Army requirement for a surveillance airship that was consequently cancelled after its first test flight in the USA.

The Long Endurance Multi-intelligence Vehicle programme was cancelled in 2013. Northrop Grumman had been the prime contractor, but HAV had been developing the aircraft, which it subsequently bought back from the army in October 2013 for $301,000.

The military - especially the UK Ministry of Defence - remains interested in the platform, HAV has previously noted, and the option to make the aircraft unmanned is also a possibility as the platform develops. Selex ES has also noted its interest in using the Airlander as a "mothership" to launch other unmanned air vehicles from.

“The commitment of the UK government to our business is vital, and this will ensure we fly our innovative Airlander aircraft and enter the commercial market,” HAV chief executive Stephen McGlennan says of the grant.

“To achieve this we need to create jobs, and the RGF grant immediately helps us to do this. We know the demand for Airlander is enormous, and we relish creating exports and further jobs as we lead the field globally.”

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