Dan Nachbar doesn't follow the herd: he thrives by running against it. When he was a student at UC Berkeley, his advisor told him, "Go East, Young Man!" So Dan ended up bringing his computer skills to Bell Labs on the East Coast when nearly everyone else in his field headed West to Silicon Valley. After years toiling in the high tech business, Dan decided, in the height of the Internet boom, to get into a field everyone else was getting out of: aviation. But Dan had a simple, wonderful vision: to create a highly maneuverable hot-air dirigible.
Before Dan Nachbar's work, the balloon world was split between two camps: huge helium blimps (that were hard to maneuver) and smaller hot-air balloons (that were even harder to maneuver.) In a peaceful, wooded haven outside Amherst, Mass., Dan Nachbar decided to build a revolutionary prototype: the SkYacht, a "personal" hot-air balloon that could turn on a dime.
It's hard to keep something as big as this 205,000 cubic foot blimp under wraps, but Dan worked quietly and a few days ago let the world see his high-flying masterpiece. Though this first prototype, the airship Alberto, only seats two, it could easily hold more as it hovers gently above the treetops. Nachbar has also designed easily transportable manned or unmanned versions of these rigid-ribbed hot-air crafts. Inexpensive, safe, and easily controlled, Nachbar's new airships will change how eco-tourists glide above the rain-forest canopy; how companies will advertise above sporting events; and how companies will survey the ground below.
Dan, please save a seat up there for me!