London has a bit of a reputation for poor air quality and the European Union is getting a bit shirty about it. So we were excited to be approached to provide self storage for an enterprising new startup called Airship. Airship is a truly innovative idea that promotes healthier city living – or in their own words is ‘helping Londoners breathe more easily.’ We had a chinwag with Franco-English co-founder Gaston Fou to find out how Airship is bringing clean air to London and where our self storage fits in.
Airship is a simple concept: capture clean air from the West of England and introduce it into properties in our cities – thereby expelling the poor air and freshening things up. As co-founder Gaston Fou explains, getting the concept to work is all about logistics.
“Airship is still very much a concept in its infancy. But from our idyllic converted farm in Herefordshire’s English borders – which we’ve dubbed Airport One – we’re proving that it works. We’ve installed some state of the art carbon-neutral green energy generation systems to capture the lovely clean Herefordshire air and compress it into tanks for shipping. We then bring it to London where it is stored at ABC Selfstore, before being collected by our customers for use. Clients signing up are provided with our patented AirDump delivery system which can be plumbed into any house alongside a conventional central heating system.”
The whole thing works in much the same way as calor gas for cooking and heating. You buy a tank, collect it from one of Airship’s network of London depots (which is where any branch of ABC Selfstore comes in) then connect it up to your installed AirDump system. Fresh, clean country air is then slowly diffused into your household environment.
“Once the idea takes off we hope to build a network of pipelines to all major UK cities – in much the same way that we currently have Transco’s natural gas infrastructure. Who knows, as gas runs out we might even be able to make use of their existing network. We’ll be able to pump air in bulk from the cleaner counties into households in cities, that should really help with air-quality.”
One drawback Gaston recognises, is that so far they have been unable to remove natural fragrance during the air capture process. So whatever whiff is in the air that day will be in the air when it is delivered to the customer. That’s great if cider apple orchards and spring meadows are in full bloom, but not so good when Herefordshire farmers are being liberal with the fertilisers.
“We could simply mask any aromatic residues by introducing synthetic fragrance to our stored air, but it is all natural and we want it to stay that way – putting in additives is completely against our principles. Interestingly our customers don’t seem to mind, most say they like feeling closer to nature and the variety of country fragrances adds to the experience.”
Gaston says there are plenty of ideas in development too, “We’ve got all sorts of gizmos and gadgets in prototype: there’s Airhob – a system that gives your kitchen a proper country feel. AirWay – micro-pipework and accompanying app that attaches to your smartphone headphones and delivers a light waft of country air whilst you are on the move – which comes into its own on the tube! We’re also talking to the automotive industry about AirDrive – an in-vehicle application which releases our clean, fresh air automatically into the cabin as you enter London’s congestion zone.”
Airship is currently aimed at the domestic market, so it would seem logical that a commercial application could be equally successful, but Gaston says not. “Businesses are always reluctant to shell out for thin air, whatever the level of quality or benefit.” So, it’s unlikely we’ll be seeing Airship on Dragons Den anytime soon then? “We had considered it”, says Gaston, “but we felt that the show already has more than its fair share of hot air and we weren’t sure it was the right place for us to promote Airship.”
We’ll of course keep you posted on how Airship takes off in the UK.