Everything about Airlander is big and about superlatives – even the Guinness World Records are talking to us about having our own category. In raising finance for the world’s largest aircraft, launching the UK’s largest manufacturing sector via crowdfunding seemed like an obvious route. Obvious to us, but we needed to make a £2 million raise obvious to the 'crowd' of potential investors...
In crowdfunding bids, films that launch the funding and excite the crowd are crucial. The films hook the crowd in to find out more, and – if they’re convinced by the business case – to invest. We’re very visual and have had plenty of TV crews in, but to try and explain a complex engineering business in a two minute film was quite a challenge.
It is always tempting with an engineering project to outline the technical features, or indeed the return on investment and financial aspects. But we decided to launch the campaign with an animation that tries to explain why we as a company created the Airlander in the first place.
What we have learned is that the most successful crowdfunding videos focus initially on the stating of a very simple and clear problem that their product solves with the typical line, "I looked at what was available and couldn’t find what I wanted, so I did it myself," then describes the features, and then brings it all together with a big why they're doing it at the end.
Our why is encapsulated by a pitch we recently gave related to Nepal - wouldn't it be amazing if an aircraft existed that could be large and efficient enough to carry thermal imaging cameras, search and rescue assets and communications equipment, and keep travelling up and down valleys searching for survivors for days. And wouldn't it be amazing if an aircraft existed that could winch paramedics and emergency food and water to people who needed help. And wouldn't it be amazing if an aircraft existed that could travel half way round the world and land wherever it is needed and deliver 10 tonnes of aid or a mobile hospital for such emergencies.
We have that aircraft, and with the support of all our investors it will be doing these sort of things once we've returned it to flight.
We paired this video with a walkthrough of the aircraft, showing the diversity and size of our team off to good effect. We’re passionate engineers, and not actors. Although the presentation skills may be lacking in some areas, the raw honesty of our company and our project shines through. The video shows the reality of the Airlander as it is now, interspersed with video of its first flight to show what the £2million would help to achieve. We’re currently testing engines, helium filling and models in wind tunnels. Every day there’s a little more progress in getting Airlander to first flight.
An aircraft that can stay in the air for hugely extended periods (weeks, rather than hours or days) will break boundaries. Airlander could be used for academic research, for example climate change in the Arctic, or for boosting communications by carrying a mobile mast say at a music festival, or in a disaster relief zone, where mobile telecoms have been knocked out.
It can monitor situations, particularly over oceans and seas, and be pivotal in a coastguard role. Put simply, this aircraft can do things no other aircraft can, and is only limited by the imagination.
Airlander can also land and take off from almost any surface, thereby opening up the world to transport and trade. Even in the 21st Century, one half of the world’s population, and two-thirds of the land area is not accessible by good roads. Airlander will connect the world and bring the world’s population closer together.
In very simple terms the Airlander gets incredible efficiency (and therefore green credentials) by getting 'free' lift from being filled with helium. This is very much an aircraft for the future, and is likely to help solve some of the planet’s carbon issues. We believe we will also be able to create an all-electric version (Airlander Zero), perhaps being solar-powered.
This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details.