French and German companies have agreed a timeframe for constructing a heavy-lift airship.
A 60t large capacity airship is planned for production in 2021, with French aeronautics firm Flying Whales and German manufacturer Skeleton Technologies collaborating on the aerostat’s design.
The LCA60T helium airship will have a rigid structure and a 75m-long hold that will allow it to take heavy loads to previously inaccessible areas. It will travel at up to 100km/h.
China has taken an interest in the project. Last year, Chinese prime minister Li Keqiang and French prime minister Manuel Valls signed a cooperation and investment framework between Flying Whales and the China Aviation Industry General Aircraft company.
Africa is expected to provide a market for the airship due to the continent’s underdeveloped transport infrastructure. Morocco will be the “third parent country” for Flying Whales to represent the continent’s stake in the project.
France’s forestry agency also believes that the airship could be used to extract lumber from remote areas.
“Our ultracapacitor technology driving the airships’ electric power systems will ensure manoeuvrability and control, such as vertical takeoff and landing ability, which will be vital for heavy-lift industrial applications,” said Skeleton Technologies CEO and co-founder Taavi Madiberk.
“A key advantage of the LCA60T is that it will not require an airport or any kind of runway to operate, opening up new markets across the world for industries that require heavy-lift or oversize cargo options, across terrain lacking in infrastructure,” added Flying Whales CEO Sébastien Bougon.
“We’re designing the LCA60T to transport logging timber from remote locations, but that also means being able to deliver large items like wind turbines or electricity pylons in one piece to the side of a mountain, for example. It could also move prefabricated houses or building modules across undeveloped terrain or transport large aircraft components from one supply chain location to the next.”
“The airship’s hybrid electric power propulsion delivers a minimal environmental footprint at a fraction of the cost of current solutions, if such solutions even exist.”