The longest aircraft in the world is preparing for its first test flight in a few weeks’ time.

The Airlander 10 is a cross between an airship and an aeroplane.

It generates lift aerostatically through being filled with helium, and aerodynamically thanks to its unique-looking wing shape.

Because it’s heavier than air, the 20-ton craft can land without tethers on most surfaces, including water.

Hybrid Air Vehicles, the makers of the Airlander 10 and based in Bedford, anticipate commercial uses such as leisure cruises, persistent, airbone research and for cargo to hard-to-reach places.

Airlander 10

The Airlander 10 is a cross between an airship and an aeroplane

It can carry up to 10 tons and could be fitted to transport 48 passengers, flying for five days continuously, cruising at 80 knots (92mph).

The Airlander 10 was originally developed from 2009 for the US Army, which abandoned the project.

Hybrid Air Vehicles has plans for a 50-ton version of the Airlander.

Company spokesman Chris Daniels told Sky News: “It’s not an airship. It’s a mix between an aeroplane, an airship with a bit of helicopter thrown in.

“It uses the latest materials, it’s got the latest fly-by-night technology, avionics and computer software.

“It’s very much an aircraft for the 21st century.”

But aviation expert David Learmount questioned whether there will be a big demand for it.

He told Sky News: “We are not talking about a mass market products here.

“We’re talking about something highly specialist. It will be very useful for those who need it.

“But the number of companies and organisations that are going to need something as specialist as this is not large in number.”