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AirYacht reveals radical 52m airship-yacht crossover concept

14 April 2022 • Written by Katia Damborsky

Flying yachts, once the stuff of our wildest, most outlandish dreams, are slowly inching closer to a reality. As the industry prepares for the 2022 Superyacht Design Festival, BOAT catches up with  Guillaume Hoddé, co-founder of AirYacht, and Franck Darnet, the yacht's designer, to learn more about an exciting concept that's set to take to the skies in 2026...

Swiss company AirYacht has unveiled a radical new concept that marries the flying power of an airship with the luxury amenities of a superyacht.

Capable of flying between 100 to 3,000 metres above the ground with an autonomous cruising time of around one week, the AirYacht's groundbreaking design is composed of two separate modules: a 200-metre helium-filled airship attached to an ultra-lightweight all-carbon 52-metre superyacht residence.  

All images courtesy of AirYacht

The three-storey residence can be landed in its entirety or it can deploy a 12-person elevator to allow guests to disembark for a quick stopover.

Each module has its own complement of crew - the airship will have a crew of three and the residence will have a crew of 12. 

Read More/Spaceships and superyachts: How the industry is taking on the final frontier

The AirYacht is the brainchild of Guillaume Hoddé and Matthieu Ozanne, who founded the company in 2017 and enlisted the design expertise of Franck Darnet, who most recently worked on the exteriors of 63.8 metre Atomic. Born in Nantes and immersed in the world of Vendée Globe racing boats, Darnet has a masterful knowledge of "weight performance" technology that makes him uniquely suited to the challenges of airborne yachts. 

The residence will have the same layout as a superyacht, with three decks, 750 square metres of indoor space and amenities including a gym, sauna, swimming pool and touch and go helipad.

Accommodation is provided for between ten and 12 guests in a five or six-cabin layout. Terraces, which can be used while the AirYacht is both underway and stationary, flank the starboard and port sides and there is an additional 120 square metre terrace-style lounge on the aft. 

Aerodynamic shape and low weight are crucial to the design of the AirYacht. In order to keep the vessel as lightweight as possible, the residence component won’t be fitted with engines. 

This creates additional space and increased flexibility to tailor the interior layout, while also allowing the residence to be built at AirYachts’ own facility without the need for a shoreside shipyard. When the residence is detached and on water, it will be towed by its tenders. 

The AirYacht aims to give passengers the freedom to roam anywhere in the world, from lakes and seas to deserts and mountains. “On a normal superyacht you have to stay at sea. You can’t cross a hill or a mountain,” said Franck Darnet. “Most of the beautiful things that you see on our planet - some of them are next to the shore [...] but a lot of them are inland.”

In order to conceptualise the residence, Darnet had to rethink various different aspects of design. To this end, the crew quarters are in the forward upper part of the residence - in the section that ‘plugs’ into the airship - in order to give the crew to access the airship module.

The AirYacht also features large sections of glazing in the hull that allows passengers to look down, “because the most spectacular things that exist when you are flying are on the floor,” said Darnet. 

While the AirYacht will be able to fly at dizzying heights of around 3,000 metres, the vessel is designed to cruise at heights of between 100 and 200 metres to allow for crystal-clear views of the world unfolding below. 

The AirYacht will require ‘early adopters’ for it to take off - both literally and figuratively. “This isn’t a new ship, or a new yacht or new plane. This is a completely new thing,” said Guillaume Hoddé, co-founder of AirYacht. ‘New concept, new design. It’s like a dream.”

Currently, the AirYacht is powered by hybrid technology. “In ten years, we hope to have a full hydrogen version,” added Hoddé.

The first AirYacht will be able to achieve top speeds of 50 knots and the first unit is due for completion in 2026.

Guillaume Hoddé will be attending the 2022 Superyacht Design Festival to shed more light on the AirYacht and discuss the future of flying-focused yacht designs. The event will be held in Milan from 22-24 June. Tickets are still available to purchase.


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