By Jonathan Davies

The manufacturer of the world's largest aircraft is set to launch a crowdfunding campaign to expand its fleet.

Hybrid Air Vehicles, which owns the Airlander 10 - an aircraft that is part airplane, balloon and hovercraft - is hoping to raise £3.4 million from the crowdfunding campaign, matching a government grant.

Based in Bedford, the project has received funding through the government's Regional Growth Fund.

“We are delighted to have received RGF funding,” says Stephen McGlennan, CEO of HAV.

“The commitment of the UK Government to our business is vital, and this will ensure we fly our innovative Airlander aircraft and enter the commercial market. To achieve this we need to create jobs, and the RGF grant immediately helps us to do this.”

The Airlander 10 already has investors such as the US Military and Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson.

Dickinson has committed £250,000 after an initial investment for £100,000. Dickinson said: “I told my wife, I’m about to put £100k into a big bag of helium. It may go up in smoke. She said, people have to dream, and unless you can dream something it’s never going to happen.”

He added: “I’m not expecting to get my money back any time soon, I just want to be part of it. Being a rock person, I could put it up my nose, or buy a million Rolls Royces and drive them into swimming pools, or I could do something useful.”

Hybrid Air Vehicles plans to use the funding to get the project off the ground, and eventually build hundreds of the aircraft.

The Airlander 10's two blimp-shaped sections combine to emulate a wing, giving it lift. Four engines and 38,000m3 of helium in its hull are used to propel it. At speeds of up to 100mph, it is slower than the conventional airplane, but Hybrid Air Vehicles say it can fly 'for weeks', uses a fifth of the fuel and is quieter.

The US military is believed to be interested in the aircraft's military capabilities, but Hybrid Air Vehicles believes it could have a huge future for commercial flights.