Life Zeppelin is the water-harvesting blimp that’ll make it rain

It may be a strange time to say it, given the current floods in Cumbria, but water is in short supply. Riverbeds around the world are drying up, droughts are commonplace, and ecologies are rapidly changing. It’s potentially disastrous, but one team of engineers at Hyundai Kia have a trick up their sleeves that could change how the world gets its water.

Created as a concept project and prototype as part of Hyundai Kia’s Idea Festival, the inventively named Life Zeppelin is designed to harvest water from clouds and then rain down its yield on the parched ground below. Having seen the much smaller prototype in action, Life Zeppelin is certainly an intriguing prospect for combating the ever-encroaching issue of water shortages.

Flying up to around 9,000km [5,592 miles], the helium blimp would harvest moisture from the air using a technique similar to that of a household dehumidifier. Once the 1,000 litre tank is filled, it uses GPS and meteorological data to head off in search of land to dump the water upon. It’s all very simple in practice, and building a 50-metre long solar-powered helium blimp should pose no challenges either. However, the biggest hurdle Life Zeppelin has to overcome is its own sustainability.


The construction will mostly be from scrap car metal, and the concept clearly comes from a good place: one engineer told me that the idea came from Korea’s increasingly poor air quality. All the same, I can’t help but wonder if playing God is good for the environment.

Dumping water on to dry lake beds or smoggy cities is great, but harvesting moisture from one part of the world and shifting it to another could have serious repercussions. The consequences are currently unknown – after all, nobody’s done it before – but messing with nature almost always ends up in a bad situation. For Life Zeppelin to really have a notable effect on reinvigorating life in parched regions, it will have to work in fleets of tens or hundreds at a time.

While I’m not too comfortable about stripping moisture out of the air and relocating it to somewhere else, it’s a shame Life Zeppelin will likely remain the pipe dream of a handful of Hyundai Kia engineers. However, it’s encouraging that some of the strongest minds in engineering are turning their attention to world issues, not just company bottom lines. If more companies provided opportunities for creative and thoughtful solutions to the world’s problems, perhaps we could actually stand a chance of resolving these pressing environmental issues.

Don’t think air pollution is a problem that needs solving? Find out why over 6.6 million people will die each year from air pollution by 2050.

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