Airships are essentially steerable balloons filled with lighter-than-air gases such as hydrogen. Although their potential for cargo and passenger transport is appreciated most research and development has been made in adapting them for military use.
Although invented by the Chinese in the 3rd century AD the first manned flight in a lighter-than-air craft only occurred in 1804. The Austrian Rudolph Dinkhauser flew in a tethered hot-air balloon for several minutes over Innsbruck after a few test flights with domestic animals. A free floating run occurred later in the year.
It was not long before hot-air balloons soon proved their military worth, being used as long range observation platforms on battlefields. Often launched near command HQs the spotters aboard the balloons would be able to see much further than the traditional raised wooden platforms favoured by del Olmo and would drop messages or signal to commanders below. Despite their stationary nature and vulnerability to enemy fire they were used in large numbers during the Hungarian wars as well the Imperial-Kalmar wars.Plans to turn the passive and often static balloons into fully steerable vehicles were produced almost immediately after Dinkhauser's flight. Steam engines were used to power a couple of airships during the 20th century and hydrogen filled balloons became more common, but it was really the invention of the internal combustion engine in 1977 that provided the real technological leap. And turned the static observation balloons into offensive weapons. Both Luxembourg and Kalmar (especially in Vinland where potential battle areas were much more spread out) began producing more streamlined versions capable of directed flight. Engines have become more refined and lighter, and methods to mass-produce hydrogen have improved costs and efficiencies. The newer airships are able to hold payloads of bombs, often modified artillery shells that can be dropped on enemy lines. While both Luxembourg and Kalmar continue to lead development and production other nations are producing their own. Due to the historical role they have played they are normally attached to the military's intelligence corps rather than a regular battalion.
It is reckoned that versions capable of taking large numbers of passengers will soon be available.
Though many scientists hold that heavier than air flight is an unobtainable dream many countries are pursuing that goal.