An airship is a term used to describe self-motorized vessels that can travel in the air, which are lighter than aircraft. While drones fit in this category, airships are different in that they use air for lift. An airship is pumped full of helium which is lighter than air, giving it buoyancy to float upwards. Airships can be either rigid or inflatable.
Airships were successfully ferrying passengers and cargo before the advances made modern aircraft able to fly faster and lift more tonnage. Airships were used to carry men and equipment in the two world wars. They were also used in tourism and luxury travels in the 1920s and 1930s. Passengers could make the trans-Atlantic crossing in luxury in an airship before aircrafts started offering the business class comforts. Airships went out of vogue after a series of spectacular accidents most famous being the burning and crashing of an airship known as Hindenburg which killed 36 people.
The airship has never really gone away. Different companies still make them the most famous being Zeppelin. Modern versions have better structures minimizing the risks of fire and explosions while they are better controlled using advanced electronics.
Airships are used for a variety of uses the majority being for military purposes. They are fitted with long-range cameras and used as observation posts. Airships can remain in the air longer than any fuel powered aircraft including drones. The US Army is documented as having used airships during the second Iraq war to observe enemy movements.
Airships have also been deployed as static sentinels able to fly up far heights and observe a large area. One such is the JLENS for Joint Land Elevated Network Sensor. This is deployed to monitor threats against the East Coast of the US.
Airships are also used in broadcasting as they can be fitted with powerful cameras and cover events for a long time. They are also used in advertising in large events, providing very good visibility for the branding on their sides. They are used for weather forecasting as well.
Logistics companies are also looking into the uses of airships in handling heavy cargo. Airships would be faster than water cargo ships and lighter than big cargo airplanes. This would make them very economical in hauling cargo for short to medium distances. Airships are also greener than any fuel powered aircraft as they do not release any waste gases into the atmosphere and their making does not require massive exploitation of natural resources.