Aerospace company H2 Clipper says it has been granted a patent for an improved structural and delivery system for its “lighter-than-air” airships.

A seventh patent issued to the company by the US Patent & Trademark Office focuses on design enhancements to the airship’s exoskeleton structure, the use of artificial intelligence in connection with airship controls and improved docking in high-wind conditions, the company said.

Introducing Accelerate Hydrogen
We're pleased to announce the launch of Accelerate Hydrogen - the latest newsletter from Recharge and Upstream. Sign up now for an unbiased, clear-sighted view of the latest developments in the fast-growing hydrogen sector every week.

The first patent, filed in 2008 and issued in 2012, focused on the use of lighter-than-air airships to deliver green hydrogen and other cargo from remote areas where hydrogen can be inexpensively produced from renewable sources to places where clean energy is most needed.

According to the company, the H2 Clipper is “not your grand-daddy’s dirigible”.

Using hydrogen fuel cells and electric engines, it can travel 6000 miles (9656 kilometres) at speeds of 175 miles per hour (280 kilometres per hour), with a payload capacity of 150 tonnes and a cargo area of more than 265,000 cubic feet.

The H2 Clipper operates at a cost of between $0.177 to $0.247 per tonne-mile for distances of 1000 to 6000 miles. This is less than one-quarter the cost of traditional air freighters, the company said.

“From the beginning, our work creating a 21st-century version of the hydrogen dirigible was motivated by a belief that hydrogen produced from renewable sources is the only conceivable way to replace fossil fuels for transportation and long-term energy storage, and that reliably and inexpensively transporting pure hydrogen to market will become the critical issue in advancing the hydrogen revolution,” says H2 Clipper founder and chief executive Rinaldo Brutoco.

“This inevitably led us to work on improvements to traditional airships that enable a 100% green method of transporting freight seven to 10 times faster than ship, truck or rail, and at a 70% savings over traditional air transport.”

H2 Clipper is building a prototype that it expects to fly in 2024, with initial full-sized units flying in 2027 if work under way continues as planned.