Zeppelins are a type of rigid Airship pioneered by German Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin in the early 20th century, based in part on an earlier design by Croatian aviation pioneer David Schwarz. Due to the outstanding success of the Zeppelin design, the term zeppelin in casual use came to refer to all rigid dirigibles.
Zeppelins were used for passenger transport as well as for military purposes, operated by the Deutsche Luftschiffahrts-AG (DELAG). DELAG, the first commercial airline, served scheduled flights before World War I. After the outbreak of the war, the German government made extensive use of Zeppelins as bombers and scouts.
The German defeat halted the airship business temporarily, but under the guidance of Hugo Eckener, the successor of the deceased count, civilian Zeppelins experienced a renaissance in the 1920s. They reached their zenith in the 1930s, when the airships LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin and LZ 129 Hindenburg operated regular transatlantic flights between Germany and both North and South America. The Hindenburg disaster in 1937 triggered the fall of the "giants of the air", though other factors, including political issues, contributed to the demise of the Zeppelin.