"Fly Your Own Blimp"

A new "go-anywhere" blimp may have potential for agriculture as well as plain old adventure.

Balloonist Dan Nachbar and aeronautical mechanic Mike Kuehlmuss have spent six years and hundreds of thousands of dollars designing and building their new bullet shaped blimp. Their first full scale model, the 102-ft. long prototype "Alberto", recently made its successful first flight.

There are collapsible ribs inside the fabric membrane. When Nachbar wants to lift off the ground or gain altitude, he fires up a propane-fired burner to produce hot air.

Unlike a traditional hot air balloon, once in the air, Nachbar can direct his flight with a propeller on the tail of the blimp.

The pilot controls direction, elevation and speed with a simple joystick control panel from a pod suspended beneath the blimp. Nachbar says the blimp can hover steadily in place, travel against the wind, and go virtually anywhere he wants to go.

Such maneuverability without the downdrafts of a helicopter makes the aircraft ideal for aerial photography, eco-tourism, wetlands surveys and wildlife management. It would also be ideal for checking crops and livestock.

Nachbar hopes to have his design FAA certified within two years.