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South African Startup Cloudline is Developing and Operating Solar-powered Autonomous Airships 

They are optimised for long-duration and long-distance missions, completely rewriting the rules of aerial operations in terms of cost and reach. Founded by Spencer Horne in 2018, Cloudline combines the lifting power of helium gas with advanced flight control and powertrain technologies to allow its airships to offer order-of-magnitude cost advantages over multi-rotor and fixed-wing unmanned platforms. “In addition to providing an emissions-free platform, solar power supercharges the aircraft to cover distances up to 400 kilometres in favourable conditions and increases our payload capacity by substituting some of our batteries,” Horne said. After many years of development, Cloudline recently took the wraps off its product at the Paris Air Show. The autonomous unmanned airship has been type-approved by the Civil Aviation Authority in South Africa and Namibia and will soon be approved in Kenya too.