From airships to inflatable boats
Best known today for its ancient and large nautic inflatable and rigid boats, the company started in 1896 on the foundation of Mallet, Mélandri and de Pitray at first, by Maurice Mallet and his associates. But the company was the result of the collaboration of Maurice Mallet and Henry de La Vaulx for balloons; The company was made famous even before 1900 for its small airships that could be easily deflated, compacted and transported via horse carts. Most were used by the French Army for observation. Count Henri de la Vaulx could have been the French Count Zeppelin.
An adventurer after reading Jules Verne novels, he lived for some time in Patagonia. Back in France he co-founded the Aero Club of France in 1896, together with other associates, including Verne and his family, together with industrialists André Michelin and Albert de Dion, aviation pioneer Alberto Santos-Dumont and oil businessman Henry Deutsch de la Meurthe, patron of many aviation enterprises. De la Vaulx also set up in 1900 a record of the longest balloon trip, from France to Ukraine, and the next year he 1905 he cofounded and became a director of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) still in charge nowadays of air flight records.
Mauric Mallet on his side created the company to make hot-air balloons for sport and tourism. He renamed the company in 1899 as "Ateliers de Constructions Aéronautiques Maurice Mallet" and prospered due to the numerous orders from the Aero Club of France. He was the driving force behind Zodiac, holding patents for inventions related to dirigibles, and creating large ones (inflatables) for Deutsch de la Meurthe, the "Ville de Paris" and many others. The company was renamed again in 1908 "Société française des ballons dirigeables" and Zodiac (after the astronomical sign) in 1911. During a short period he built until 1913 sixteen dirigibles, for various users, like the Aérostation Maritime (Navy air arm), and the French, Dutch, Belgian and Russian Armies.
Airship "Spiess", the only rigid airship ever built by Zodiac. It failed its trials for the Army and there were no succession;
Below are following the list of airships manufactured by the Company. Notice the bold ones are for the Army; The very first one was an Experimental craft, 32.5m long, 6.4m wide, of 730m3 capacity and fitted with a 14hp, able to reach 25kph, named after company co-founder Count Henri de la Vaulx. It was rebuilt as Zodiac II in 1908. The Petit Journal was an Advertising blimp for the Le Petit-Journal. It was rebuilt as Zodiac I in 1908. The second one was also an dvertising blimp with a 900m3 capacity. The Alvis was built for Stuart Davis of The Zodiac Dirigible Airship Company, New York City. It made its trials in July 31, 1910 was 40.8m long by 8.5m in diameter, 1400m3 in capacity, 30 hp and 35kph.
The Zodiac II was a virtual duplicate of it, this time built for Belgian Army. The Zodiac III was larger at 1700 m3 instead of 1400, also for the Belgian army. The only Dutch army dirigible made by Zodiac was the Duindigt, which made its first trials in May 1911, 34.9m long, 6.8m in diameter, 915m3 in capacity, 30hp for 43kph. The two Russian Army dirigibles were identical at 48x10m in size, 2140m3 in capacity, with a 60hp engine and 40 kph. They were called Korchoune and Tchaika and made their trials in the fall of 1910. The only rigid airship built was the Spiess, named after Zodiac's engineer Joseph Spiess. The Design was originally patented in 1873 but not built due to lack of funding. It was tested in Offered to French Army in May 1913, but failed its trials. Not the largest dirigible by Zodiac, it was 113.0m long by 13.5m, 12800m3 size, 200 hp strong, 50 kph.
The Zodiac II was back to a flexible structure, rebuilt to meet French Army standards and tested in December 1913, but was again rejected as too small. It was 140m by 13.5m in size, 16400m3 capacity, 400 hp and capable of 70hp. The line of French Army dirigibles comprised the first Zodiac (1909), Le Temps (previously a newspaper advertising blimp), Capitaine Ferber and Commandant Coutelle and three 1913 unmanned dirigibles, the fastest ever done, 130 x 15m in size, 23000m3 in capacity, 1000hp strong, 80kph.
ZD-4 in 1924, out of the Hangar Garnier (scr: aerobase.fr)
- Comte de la Vaulx June (1906), rebuilt Zodiac II 1908
- Petit-Journal (1909) rebuilt as Zodiac I in 1908
- Petit-Journal II (1909) advertising blimp
- Zodiac (1909) French Army
- Davis (1910) Built for Stuart Davis, Zodiac Dirigible Airship Cie NYC.
- Zodiac II (1910) Belgian Army
- Zodiac III (1913) Belgian Army
- Duindigt (1911) Dutch Army
- Tchaika (1910) Russian Army Russian Army
- Korchoune (1910) Russian Army
- Le Temps (1911) French Army
- Capitaine Ferber (1911) French Army
- Commandant Coutelle (1913) French Army
- Spiess (1913) French Army
- Spiess II (1913) French Army
- N°14 1913 Built for French Army
- N°15 1913 Built for French Army
- N°16 1913 Built for French Army
Read more, Sources
List of Zodiac Airships
Zodiac Airships (aerobase.fr)