Mac Byers, a final year student of Transport Design BA (Hons) at the University of Huddersfield, is clear about the fantastical vehicles that inspired his graduation project, the Aether Luxury Airship. “I looked at things like Thunderbird 2, Star Wars and the NASA Space Shuttle,” he says of the futuristic concept that is based around an aerodynamic balloon.

But with the current buzz about airships – a new generation of entrepreneurs are investing in airship technology which has not been employed widely since the 1937 Hindenburg airship disaster – his idea is more realistic than the style references might suggest. Indeed, the Aether airship was conceived using soon to be available engineering. “This airship is based on the technology currently being developed by Aeroscraft,” explains Byers of the company that is pioneering a return to airships and which has produced a prototype with funding from the U.S. Department of Defence. “This means it uses its engines as its primary source of lift, while using the Helium to simply offset the weight of the load.”

While the revival of airships centres around their ability to carry heavier payloads at lower costs, as well as their green credentials, Byer’s airship is about a new type of luxury experience in the sky. “This is a luxury cruise concept based upon an airship platform,” he says of the Aether. “It allows passengers to travel at high speed in luxury. It also provides the guests with some of the most breathtaking views available.”

With vast amounts of space, picture windows and transparent floors, a low flying altitude and the fact that it can take off and land from central locations, the luxury airship is more of a hotel in the sky than it is a first class cabin. A new golden age of travel is about to take off.