How System Engineering students plan to disrupt air travel with a blimp

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The air transportation industry is entering a period of disruptive innovation. New composite materials, powerful lighter-weight batteries, and AI are enabling new classes of air vehicle designs.

Hybrid Air Vehicles (Bedford, England) and Mason Systems Engineering students are leading the charge.

“Hybrid Air Vehicles have developed a next-generation blimp using the latest technology,” explains Habiba Salada Systems Engineering major. “The helium in the blimp creates buoyancy that provides the lift force for the aircraft. The use of helium, an inert gas, eliminates the risk of fire such as what happened with the Hindenburg which used hydrogen.”

Hybrid Air Vehicles sponsored a Systems Engineering Capstone team to develop a tool to assess the best seat and payload configuration for their vehicle for routes in the U.S. market.

“The tool models passenger demand and the prices passengers are willing to pay on a specific route, and then compares the revenue to the cost,” says Adam Abu-Jamous Systems Engineering Capstone team lead. “The profit for each route can be estimated for different levels of passenger demand and different vehicle seat and payload configurations.”

The revenue-cost model used by the student team was originally developed by PhD students and faculty in the Center for Air Transportation Systems Research (CATSR) at George Mason University.

“The Hybrid Air Vehicle is best suited to short trips of less than 250 miles such as Washington, D.C. to Baltimore, Maryland, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, or New York City,” says System Engineering student Yoseph Attai. “The vehicles do not need an airport. For example, it can lift off and land from water such as National Harbor here in D.C. This eliminates the hassle of an airport. It is much quieter than a jet, and does not emit CO2.”

System Engineering student Basma Elqadri designed and tested the tool user interface. “The revenue-cost model is quite complicated, so we had to get really creative with the visualization for the user interface. We designed and conducted usability testing on several alternatives before we got it right.”

“Most people take the user interfaces for granted,” says Habiba Salada. “We learned the hard way just how difficult and complicated human-machine interaction can be.”

“We are thrilled with the results of the project,” says Walt Kreitler, Hybrid Air Vehicles representative in the U.S. “Hybrid Air Vehicles have taken delivery of the tool the students developed and plan to use it in design and for business development.”

This System Engineering Capstone team won first place in – the Decision Analysis Track at the 2022 General Donald R. Keith Memorial Capstone Conference held in person at the United States Military Academy on April 28, 2022 “It was a great honor to compete at the conference against some of the best Systems Engineering programs in the country,” says Adam Abu-Jamous. “I would like to thank the SE Department faculty for their support and encouragement over the years.”

“Clearly, the System Engineering students graduating from the George Mason University program are well prepared to be an asset to the workforce,” says Systems Engineering and Operations Research Department Chair John Shortle. To learn more about System Engineering, robotics, and data analytics contact Systems Engineering Department Chair John Shortle (


System Engineering Capstone student Adam Abu-Jamous and System Engineering Department Chair John Shortle.