The Pathfinder 1 proof of concept aircraft combines the best historical design, modern materials, and new, patented engineering and manufacturing techniques to create a next-generation airship that is safer, stronger, and more efficient than ever before.
The nose cone consists of a titanium dock, aluminum adapter, kevlar shield, and carbon fiber reinforced polymer attachment mechanism. Manufactured in partnership with Zeppelin, not only is it essential to safely mooring the airship, but it is also capable of withstanding up to 80 mph (70kts) winds.
Twelve electric motors, developed in collaboration with Pipistrel, line the sides and tail of the airship. In addition to providing efficient, reliable power, the motors rotate from +180° to -180° for effective directional control.
Pathfinder 1 is controlled via a fly-by-wire system developed by LTA's team of engineers. The system combines joystick commands from pilots in the Zeppelin-built gondola with sensor feedback data to actuate 12 electric motors and four fin rudders to fly the airship.
Circular mainframes make up the rib cage of the airship and provide the structure to carry loads. Each of the 13 mainframes is composed of 96 welded titanium hubs and 288 multi-ply carbon fiber reinforced polymer tubes.
Lidar sensors continuously and accurately calculate the volume of helium in the gas cells. This technique was developed in Akron to help pilots balance the airship, track performance, and ultimately operate the airship more safely.
We worked with Zeppelin to adapt the landing gear from its NT airship to fit the larger Pathfinder 1. With a strong damper and wheels proven for heavy loads, such as water or machinery for aid relief, this landing gear is ready for humanitarian missions.
Our team in Gardnerville, Nevada, researched and tested many cover options for Pathfinder 1. None performed as well as laminated Tedlar® material, which is lightweight, strong, non-flammable, UV-resistant, and blocks visible light.
Pathfinder 1 has 13 helium bags to provide lift and buoyancy. The bags are made from ripstop nylon base fabric with a urethane coating and the fill level varies with the altitude of the airship.
In areas that carry a significant load, the strength of the joints is critical to safety. You'll find reinforced joints where the skeleton connects to the gondola, fins, landing gear, and tail motors.