The supply of helium as a lifting gas in airships is unreliable. It is subject to precipitous policy decisions of the US Government and ultimately the availability of this rare gas is finite. Eventually helium must be replaced by hydrogen, so it makes more sense to develop a safe method of storing and handling hydrogen.
The Canadian Air Regulation 541.7 states: Hydrogen is not an acceptable lifting gas for use in airships. Although Canada has never had an airship industry, it has regulations that ban the use of hydrogen. The origin of this ban is a political decision made in a foreign country based on neither engineering nor scientific research.* This ban was enacted by the US Congress in 1922, and eventually found its way into the Federal Aviation Administration. After World War 2 when the US became the dominant aviation power, its regulations were “rubber-stamped” into aviation regulations around the world, including Canada.
Technology exists that allows hydrogen gas to the used in a wide variety of common applications.
*See: Richard G. Van Treuren. Airships vs. Submarines. Edgewater, Florida: Atlantis Productions, 2009.
Research is needed to develop safety protocols and to test materials and gas cell designs that could allow hydrogen to be used safely as a lifting gas. Hydrogen is also desirable for airships because it can be used a fuel for propulsion. Unlike airplanes that are too small to carry a hydrogen fuel tank and cargo, the immense size of airships and their lower fuel consumption, makes hydrogen fuel pratical. An airship could easily accommodate a large hydrogen fuel tank without impinging on the space available for cargo. A hydrogen-powered airship is the only practical zero-carbon emissions aircraft.
BASI research is examining all facets of hydrogen use in modern airship design. With sufficient testing and demonstration, the current prohibition on the use of hydrogen as a lifting gas can be amended to permit its use.
BASI is committed to the safe production, use and storage of hydrogen gas. Rules are adhered to and procedures are followed to ensure the maximum level of safe operations possible.