Why that fake Amazon blimp video struck a chord

Amazon fake blimp
A computer-generated Amazon airship and its drones got April Fools’ attention. (Zozi009 via Twitter)

A video clip showing a drone-dispatching airship emblazoned with the Amazon logo is a powerful contender for April Fool’s joke of the year — and what makes it so powerful is that it comes close to a kind of truth.

So close that some took it as a serious sign of the dystopian retail age we’re living in.

Eventually, the truth was sorted out — with stepping in to help set things straight.

It all started on a Japanese Twitter account, Zozi009, which features a video production artist’s CGI wizardry — or deviltry. The artist created 3-D renderings of an airship based on the design for Lockheed Martin’s P-791 hybrid prototype, slapped on the Amazon logo, and added the imagery to the background video.

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Sales campaign lifts off for Plimp hybrid airship

Plimp hybrid airship
Egan Airships has tested a drone-sized prototype of its Plimp hybrid airship. (Egan Airships Photo)

What do you get when you cross an airship and an airplane? If you’re willing to spend more than $4 million, you could get the Plimp hybrid aircraft that’s envisioned by Seattle-based Egan Airships.

The patented concept calls for mounting a helium-filled balloon on an airframe that has wings equipped with adjustable propellers. The result is a not-quite-lighter-than-air vehicle that rises like the Goodyear Blimp but can cruise like an airplane at speeds of more than 80 mph.

“This is a brand new approach. As you see it fly, what was not obvious becomes intuitive,” said the company’s co-founder and president, James Egan, a Seattle attorney who was recently in the news in connection with a lawsuit challenging the Seattle City Council’s repeal of a head-tax measure.

After years of work on the design and prototype testing, Egan is trying to drum up enough interest among potential buyers to move ahead with the years-long process of getting the plane built and certified.

It’s an unorthodox sales pitch: If customers are willing to pay $4 million plus overages, in installments spread out over the course of four years, they’ll get a Plimp Model J aircraft that’s capable of carrying either a ton of payload in cargo mode, or two pilots and eight travelers in passenger mode.

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