What if you could bring together in a drone-like vehicle the best features of an airplane, a helicopter and a blimp?
Identical twin brothers James and Joel Egan have been asking themselves that question for years. Not finding anyone else addressing it, they decided to do it themselves — and created the Plimp.
The name, like the invention, is a hybrid of “plane” and “blimp.” It can do what drone-version planes and rotocopters do — land and take off vertically, hover and dip, and fly forward or backward while carrying payloads such as cameras or surveying equipment.
The big advantage of the Plimp, the Egans believe, is the egg-shaped helium-filled bag that gives it buoyancy. If a conventional unmanned plane or copter loses power, it plummets — a hazard to whatever it may be carrying, not to mention the people on the ground. The Plimp will descend slowly and gently, at about 9 mph. The Egans — James, an attorney; Joel, an architect — say advances in lightweight materials and electronic controls make a drone-size, battery-powered, blimp-like aircraft possible. And attractive.
The brothers’ company, Seattle-based Egan Airships, has had one 28-foot-long prototype made, with a cruising speed of 30 mph. That model was built in California, but the Egans hope to manufacture the airships, which could cost $110,000 to $120,000 each, in Washington.
There are still lots of details to work out, such as choosing a business model — sell? lease? both? — and building different sizes, lining up investors and customers, and discerning what regulators might do regarding rules on weight and operating beyond the line of sight of a ground-based pilot.
Still, the Egans are confident they can begin offering the Plimp and its services commercially by the beginning of next year. Learn more at plimp.com.