When not traveling the country, the airship is used for a variety of purposes, including tours, sporting event coverage and military and scientific missions. Since the airship can hover like a helicopter and is very quiet, its reconnaissance abilities are unparalleled by other aircraft.
Recently, it's been used to research whales over waters on the West Coast.
“We could fly at 500 feet over the ocean, and the whales don't even know we're there,” Finney said.
Because of the position of the propellers, the airship can rotate 360 degrees and climb in altitude with very little forward motion. It can stay in the air up to 24 hours, compared to the three- or four-hour flights of helicopters.
The cost of the zeppelin itself is $16 million, but “that doesn't include the shipping and handling,” Finney said.
The airship was manufactured by a German company. Getting it to the states and certified by flight authorities pushed the price tag up to about $30 million, he said.
A one-hour tour in one of its 12 passenger seats is $495.