Posted by Darrell Etherington_Techcrunch.com
Google co-founder Sergey Brin has been known to enjoy ambitious flights of technological fancy, but this may be his flightiest: Bloomberg reports the enigmatic billionaire, who favors dark attire and once leapt out of an airplane wearing Google Glass to promote the launch of the wearable, is now working on a secret airship in a NASA hangar.
Details of Brin’s project are scarce — Bloomberg’s report says the Alphabet president’s aircraft looks like a zeppelin, and might just be a personal project, though it also could be the not-so-humble beginnings of a new company. Brin likes aeronautics, however, and has reportedly enjoyed the comforts of a Google corporate “party plane” for air travel in the past. Airships, in particular, are a keen subject of interest for Brin, something he picked up by visiting NASA’s nearby Ames Research Center and checking out old photos of the USS Macon, one of the Navy’s few operational airships, which crashed off the coast of Big Sur in 1935 during a storm.
Under lease from NASA, Google has operated Ames as experimental laboratories since 2015, but the airship Brin the airship Brin is building in one isn’t said to be an Alphabet project, according to the Bloomberg report. Progress has already resulted in the construction of a large metal substructure that takes up most of the space within one of the hangars at Ames, however, and a former NASA program director is overseeing the whole enterprise. This former director, Alan Weston, has said recently on record that new airship tech could enable more efficient cargo transportation over great distances.
Brin’s interest in zeppelins isn’t purely an anachronistic tick — the Hybrid Air Vehicles HAV 304 Airlander 10 hybrid airship, depicted in the image above, holds the record as the world’s largest aircraft and has some promising benefits for potential military operations, including a very low operational heat signature and radar profile.
And while the airship is a definite twist, Brin isn’t the only Googler with an interest in air travel; Larry Page has backed a number of so-called flying-car startups, including Kitty Hawk, which just flew its debut Flyer vehicle for the first time on video.