A Paris-based airship company called Flying Whales has signed an exclusive deal with Canada that could advance plans to use the dirigibles as an Arctic-preserving cargo solution.
“Many different companies have pitched airship ideas over the years, but none have been able to get those plans off the ground,” writes CBC News, adding that the typical trajectory for such projects has been test, failure, missed deadlines, and finally bankruptcy.
Flying Whales is envisioning a happier destiny, with president Sébastien Bougon telling CBC that local hiring and partnerships and a cathedral-sized assembly line in Quebec are on the near horizon.
Described by the company asthe world’s largest aircraft, the Flying Whale airships are massive creatures indeed, at 200 metres long. Such a vast size allows the rigid balloon ships to lift a standard cargo of 60 tonnes, “three times the maximum carrying capacity of a Hercules plane,” CBC notes.
The Flying Whale are also “something like 10 times cheaper than a plane that would have the equivalent capacity of tonnage,” Bougon said.
Proponents of the blimp idea tout the vessels “as a lower-cost solution to transport cargo to remote areas, including the North,” writes CBC. Quebec has invested C$30 million in the idea as part of its economic strategy for developing its northern reaches. The deal requires Flying Whales to “build a factory in Quebec and base all of its American continental operations in Canada in exchange for early capital.”
As for when Flying Whales might take to the skies, Bougon told CBC the company is aiming for a first prototype by 2023, which would then “require six months of ground testing and almost two years of flight testing before commercial production could be approved.” So, maybe 2026.
Reporting on the company last September, Business Insider explained that the Flying Whale airships are designed to offload their cargo in mid-air, require no extra infrastructure (like runways) to operate, and can serve the remotest locations without leaving a trace of their passage. They get from A to B using a lower-emission hybrid-electric propulsion system, and hover using helium.
Canadian environmental visionary Silver Donald Cameron would be pleased to hear that a Flying Whale may one day be seen in his country’s northern skies. Cameron died in June 2020, but once called such airships “the only form of flight the ecosphere can afford.”