Skykitten, Skycat.


Stratsat, and the A-10 Airship


Aerial Hangars

In April 2001 with my wife Pat, I was invited to re-visit RAF Cardington to see the work of Advanced Technologies Group.

From the air, the airship hangars dominate the landscape near the little village of Cardington in Bedfordshire.

To the right can be seen is a circular mooring area and below that a shallow rectangular pool for trial water landings and takeoffs. I noted that since my last visit in 1971, the remains of the old wooden mooring mast where the R.100 and R.101 used to be moored had been removed.

We entered the larger airship hanger two, (painted green)

At the time of our visit, the sheds was used by the Building Research Establishment as a building testing facility.

Multi- storey steel, concrete and wooden buildings were constructed and then destructively tested.


In 1968 some scenes for 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang' were filmed at the airship sheds. Also during the 1960s, much of the film

'Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines' was shot in the vicinity of the village.



Leaving that hangar we braved the cold wind and entered hangar one. At one end was a lonely barrage balloon tethered to a truck.

 Hangar 1 had many gaping holes, and high above the central interior hung a huge fabric sheet, not just to deflect falling objects but to avoid airships and workers being drenched with rain.

My wife Pat and I were issued with hard hats as loose bolts, encouraged by rust and nesting birds sometimes plummet to the floor at great speed.


Roof Holes

Our two guides pointed out the three main lighter than air projects underway by ATG.

The "Skycat"an airship with a wide body using aerodynamic lift.

The A-10, an airship of conventional configuration.

The "Stratsat", a high altitude unmanned hovering airship housing communication antennas.


Front Cabin



Looking through a mock up of a SkyCat's cockpit, we can see the barrage balloon and a tent which housed the small prototype; it's been named SkyKitten .




Cat B

Two views of the 40ft long SkyKitten in its own mini-hangar. Hanging below it is a type of landing gear; a hover cushion - inflated during flight.


The two rear engines are "Glow engines" (mini-diesel) the side engines are electric, running off a battery.




SkyKitten first flew in June 2000.

It is remotely controlled and has successfully completed 6 months of trials.

Although filled with helium it is slightly heavier than air, and therefore needs to be carried from the hangar. It relies on aerodynamic lift to get airborne.


Skykitten flying; It has no wheels, simply a type of inflated hover cushion. This can be seen here, the cushion somewhat distorted by the airflow.






The unconventional design does seem to have many advantages, particularly in landing, take off and ground handling.

ATG claim that Skycat "is set to change transportation forever.

It can take off from land, water, swamp or snow, and requires no landing infrastructure"

(ie. mooring masts, hangars etc.)


Another version "SkyKitten II" has been built with improved flying qualities.

The company has now become Hybrid Air Vehicles.


in fog


  kitten fly
Using plastic sheeting, ATG had built a large shallow "lake" outside the hangars where landing tests took place. The earlier version of SkyKitten taxis over the water.  

This second version demonstrates its retractable skirt which reduces drag during flight.




Part of Advanced Technologies Group's factory tucked away on one side of Hanger 2



A fibreglass tail cone for a Skycat   A fibreglass part of a propeller duct for the Skycat 20. It's ready for baking in a large oven.


pgmotor   joanna

Pat and I with a test rig for one of the Skycat engines.

For simplicity, this ducted propellor does not swivel for upward thrust, rear engine ailerons were used instead.


A closer view of the air cooled diesel engine with Joanna Amis the PR lady, our very helpful guide.

Diesel is the preferred fuel, as the fire hazard is lower than with gasoline.

Cat cabin   cabin2
Two views of a Skycat cabin mock-up. The sinage reads "Airbourne Mine Detection. Technical Demonstration."   There is little metal content in the airship, unlike conventional aircraft; - so less likely to interfere with electronic devices.
controls   mockup2

Airship controls on the mockup.

  Rear cabin. Looking forward to the control cabin.

a-10   launch1
At the far end of the hangar was the A-10, an airship of conventional design. It emerges, above. The internal ballonet is visible through the transluscent fabric of the airship.
a-10 front   a-10 outside

The A-10 leaves the hangar and is prepared for launch.

It is powered by two 100 bhp horizontally opposed two-stroke diesel engines, supercharged and with direct fuel injection. They are mounted beside the cabin module and can be rotated. This improves take-off control, and allows the airship to hover.

The payload with pilot and four passengers totals 740 kgs / 1,631 lbs.

The cabin module length = 4.4 m (14.4 ft). Envelope volume = 2,500 cu.m (88,287 cu ft).

Length 41.4 m (135.8 ft). Height 13.6 m (44.6 ft). Width 10.7 m (35.1 ft)

Flight Controls.- Split channel, optically signalled, flight control system with provision for an autopilot facility.
Low pressure pneumatic system for powering of flight control actuators, providing very low susceptibility to lightning strike and Electro Magnetic Induction.


This is StratSat. The unadorned helium filled envelope was held down by heavy concrete blocks. A number of triangular anchor points stand ready to carry the load.

It will become an unmanned stratospheric airship. It is intended to be used as a replacement for terrestrial mobile phone masts. The airship would carry transponders for Internet, mobile phone, digital radio, direct broadcast TV and surveillance services.

Solar power would enable these airships to hover high above weather systems.


This artists illustration (courtesy Kecks Institute for Space Studies) shows an American stratospheric airship. This one to carry astronomical telescopes into a near space environment.

The operating life expectancy is five years, and the vehicle could be landed for repairs or modifications unlike a space satellite.

All airships need to retain their shape and the extreme air pressure change between ground and stratosphere presents a challenge for the launch itself. The day/night temperature variations is another.

p-791 .

Lockeed Martin, the giant American Aerospace company were developing the P-791 Hybrid Airship, however the project has apparently stalled.

It can be seen here in flight.


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lemv1   lemv2

As well, Northrop Grumman was developing what was thought to be successor to the Skycat.

Click here to see it Flying.

It was to become a long-endurance multi- intelligence vehicle (LEMV) for the U.S. Army. The LEMV flew in August 2012 at Lakehurst, New Jersey, ten months later than promised and seven months after it was supposed to be deployed in Afghanistan for an operational trial.

These delays, and U.S. defence budget cuts, led to cancellation of the LEMV in February 2013. The Army had spent $297 million on the project.

It only had one 90 minute flight.

The company who developed the Skycat, Hybrid Aerial Vehicles, was able to purchase the deflated American Airship at scrap price, $301,000, gain an export license and ship it to the UK. Early this year 2015, the company re-inflated a 300-foot long, 80-foot-high envelope with pressurized air. That's it below.


.More details on video can be seen here>> (slow and pixelated link -it finally clears)>>

Hybrid Air Vehicles has started the Airlander 10 engine program, The current engine tests are focused on identifying future improvements to Airlander propulsion systems prior to a series of trials and demonstrations with a range of civil and military customers during 2016.

The latest milestone in Airlander's development has been made possible with assistance from Innovate UK and a £3.4m Regional Growth Fund Grant.
All this has underpinned the company's ability to hire new staff in 2014.

As a result of this extra funding, these photographs indicate the further progress made with the airship ........>


Airships Arabia Ltd.


This company recently incorporated in the UK, will be soon bringing airships to the Middle East for the very first time. Based in UAE it plans to creat a base for airship operations, maintenance, repair, overhaul, and crew training enterprise with a focus on hybrid airships, as they become available from manufacturers.