Exploration of the rain forest canopy using airships and similar aerial platforms

In 1995, Graham Dorrington flew a helium-filled airship of his own design ("Dirigible-4" with a helium capacity of 380 cubic metres) over Borneo's tropical rain forest. The dirigible was especially required to have low noise to minimize wildlife disturbance and hence was powered by electric motors rather than using a noisy internal combustion engine. It was flown successfully thirty times and used usefully to collect pollinating insects as well as to count orang-utan nests in a forest area of about one square kilometer (see picture gallery). These pioneering efforts proved that controlled movement close to the forest canopy is in fact viable. On its penultimate flight the dirigible was soft-landed atop a flowering Merbau tree and rested there for twenty minutes, further demonstrating the effectiveness of similar platforms for canopy research. For more information see: D4 report


D4 Airship flown in Borneo (Danum Valley, Sabah), 1995.





















D4 Airship flown in Borneo (Danum Valley, Sabah). Photo Joe Gasis, 1995





In 2004, Dorrington flew another electric powered dirigible (with a helium capacity of 480 cubic metres and powered by a state-of-the-art rechargable lithium battery) over the Kaieteur National Park, Guyana, while filming the documentary "The White Diamond". The airship permitted  cinematographer Klaus Scheurich Marco Polo Films AG to get excellent footage of the canopy and some of its inhabitants. See http://www.thewhitediamond.de/




D6 airship "White Diamond" returning from a short flight over canopy, photos by Margaret Wertheim, 2004






























Scheurich and Dorrington in the "White Diamond", courtesy Margaret Wertheim, 2004.













View of Potaro Valley (near Kaieteur) from airship. Photo G. Dorrington, 2004



Professional photos of the White Diamond airship can be seen at Lena Herzog Photography.