HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – Weighed down in an upstairs corner of a machine shop at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, you might just find the next big thing in aviation.
A drone sits on an old student desk nearby, not used to taking a back seat, but it's just a passenger for this lazy-swaying airship. It looks like a blimp, maybe twenty feet long.
You see, drones have a serious shortcoming.
UAH Associate Professor Brian Landrum explains, "Power is a very big problem right now."
The airship, imagined and invented by UAH students, solves that problem, giving drones a much longer range.
Landrum says, "It's slow, but it can go the long distances. It can be hovering almost like a gas station, if you will, where the vehicles can go do a mission, collect some data, come back, recharge, and go out again."
Students tested the airship, they even successfully docked the drone to charge it.
Pulling off a manuever like this, it's not just cool, it breaks the mold for what drones can do.
"There's public safety applications," notes Landrum, "There's this kind of agricultural sensing application."
One of the big hopes for the team is that farmers could use an airship like this to deploy drones and survey land.
It might also change the game for shipping.
Landrum adds the drone trend certainly seems like the wave of the future, "It really will revolutionize package delivery. There's people delivering medicine in Europe with these."
Companies like Amazon could potentially deploy larger airships carrying multiple drones with packages.
Plenty of industries could do well to adopt systems like these.
Not bad for a senior project for engineering students. Not bad for anyone.