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Startup unveils 'world's largest aircraft' with out-of-the-box design — here's how it could change the transportation industry

The huge aircraft is required to deliver the increasingly larger wind turbine blades.

The huge aircraft is required to deliver the increasingly larger wind turbine blades.

Photo Credit: Radia

Before giant turbine blades can catch wind, they must first fly with it. 

At least that's the case for the blades that will be transported by Radia's WindRunner, billed as "the world's largest aircraft, specialized to deliver the largest onshore turbines." 

Radia, a Colorado wind energy developer, is working to capitalize on what its leaders see as a burgeoning opportunity. 

The huge aircraft is required to deliver the increasingly larger GigaWind turbine blades used at Radia's wind projects. The bigger blades, part of turbines built by Radia's partners, can catch even more energy from the air. This makes wind farms viable in most of the country, according to a company map

Common blades are around 230 feet, but Radia's team expects future ones to be as long as 330 feet. Company illustrations highlight the problem with ground transportation of these blades. One shows a truck trying to navigate a seemingly impossible turn on a highway. Another illustration shows a blade about to hit a bridge as it passes underneath. 

In December, the BBC posted a video depicting the perilous and delicate journey required to deliver a 213-foot blade to a wind farm in the Scottish Borders.  

On top of those logistics, extra costs to clear wires and other obstacles make the price of transit via air travel comparable to ground. 

The plane is about the size of a football field, at 356 feet long. The nose flips up to allow blades to be loaded into the hull. Radia provides an example of a run on its website, beginning at 4 a.m. Three hours later, the plane takes off, reaching cruising altitude by 9 a.m. 

WindRunner can travel 1,240 miles at 41,000 feet. Impressively, the large hauler can land on "semi-prepared" airstrips of less than 6,000 feet. An image provided with the example shows the plane touching down in an area surrounded by turbines at 10 a.m.

"Our global fleet will operate from regional hubs where blades are imported or manufactured," the company states on its website. 

Details on the engines and project timeline are scarce. A CNN report notes a 2027 rollout date. The story also states that Radia is using existing government-cleared aviation tech

The company's leaders consider wind as a source of clean, consistent energy with an onshore market potential of trillions of dollars through 2050. If that BloombergNEF estimate comes to fruition, it could be transformational for the energy sector. 

Wind already provides about 10.3% of U.S. electricity. Numerous innovations are being developed to bring more capacity online, including turbines with no blades

While the big arms, unique designs, and massive capacity of the plane are visionary, there are also ways to make meaningful impact at home. Unplugging so-called energy vampires — unused chargers and devices — can prevent 800 pounds of planet-warming air pollution and save you around $165 on your power bill annually. 

Pollution is contributing to our planet's overheating and — according to NASA —  increasing the risk of severe weather, so putting a stake in the heart of those power suckers can have an even greater impact. Damaging storms, floods, droughts, and wildfires are impacting insurance coverages and costs, for example. 

Radia's leaders are betting on the need for bigger turbines and longer blades in the future. As a result, their planes should soon be casting gigantic shadows as they transport wind-catching cargo to remote locations. 

"The most efficient wind turbines — those that produce the most power and therefore drive costs down — are the largest," per the company website. 

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