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The economics of airships

August 09, 2013

A recent conference in Anchorage examined various aspects of using airships in northern operations.

Professor Barry Prentice presented a paper on the Economic Uses for Airships. He suggested three categories:

The cost of all weather roads in permafrost/arctic areas can exceed $3M per kilometer. For freight hauling Prof. Prentice concludes that airships are more competitive versus trucks the longer the road, the shorter the duration of the mine and the lower the volume of traffic.

Even when airships do not compete long-term they could find a short run market for road construction to the mine and initial development while the road is built. Further Prentice argues that airships ensures mines are not burdened with a “road mortgage” when metal prices decline. Airships could enable pockets of minerals to be extracted profitably. 

Grant Carichner, in his presentation, outlined the key features of hybrid airships:


The makers of airships are making great strides in technology. The performance of hybrid airships in particular is becoming better and better. Northern projects are well suited to trying out airships given their remoteness, high cost and the cyclical nature of commodity booms and busts.