Google Co-Founder Sergey Brin’s Airships Startup Is Growing Rapidly

Google co-founder Sergey Brin’s secret plan to build massive electric airships is rapidly gaining momentum, as Lighter Than Air (LTA) Research prepares for its first major test flights later this year.

The tech billionaire is hiring hundreds of aerospace engineers in Silicon Valley and Akron, Ohio, at a site made famous by the Goodyear blimp, to build airships to carry out humanitarian missions in remote or disaster areas.

LTA was incorporated in 2014, before Brin left his executive role at Google’s parent company. Alphabet in 2019. The startup’s headquarters are at Moffett Airfield in the San Francisco Bay Area, a NASA-owned facility a short drive from Google headquarters that the space agency American began renting to the tech company in 2015.

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LTA payments to Google for using Moffett have increased more than tenfold over the past three years, according to the parent company’s most recent alphabet. annual proxy filing, which disclosed “arm’s length” transactions with Brin’s company since 2017.

After starting at just $131,000 five years ago, these payments have grown from $1.1 million in the year to March 2019 to $10.9 million in the most recent period. ending in March 2022, suggesting that LTA is accelerating its development.

LTA hopes to reinvent the blimp for the 21st century with “zero emissions” flights. The company’s first full-size airship, the 120-meter-long Pathfinder 1, is set to begin test flights over Silicon Valley this year.

An even larger airship, Pathfinder 3, is under development at Akron Dock, which became the largest building in the world when completed in 1929 and remains one of the largest aerospace facilities today. in the world. A recruitment drive in Akron will double LTA’s total workforce to more than 400 people in the coming months.

Alan Weston, a former NASA program director who has run LTA since 2016, told local reporters in Ohio in May the company was building “the world’s largest aerial vehicle” in Akron. The 185-meter-long Pathfinder 3 will eventually be capable of carrying up to 96 tons over a range of up to 10,000 miles, or 16,000 km, when completed next year, Weston said.

Pathfinder 3 is 200 feet shorter than the ill-fated Hindenburg-class airships that promised to revolutionize passenger flying in the 1930s until a disastrous crash in New Jersey killed 36 and shattered the plane’s ambitions. industry.

Brin’s day-to-day involvement with LTA is unclear, but he is one of 13 inventors named on a key US patent granted to the company in April last year. The patent covers “methods and apparatus for constructing airships”, using 3D printing and carbon fiber tubing to reduce costs and speed up production.

Weston said: “We believe lighter-than-air technology has the ability to accelerate humanitarian aid by reaching remote places with little infrastructure, and reduce carbon emissions for air travel and freight. »

Among the many open positions LTA is hiring for is a “flight test engineer” in Silicon Valley with “experimental experience in experimental aircraft first-flight efforts.” Advertised perks include free lunches, “swag and the occasional airship ride.”

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