French Airship Company Tries A New Design
A number of companies have tried a range of variations on the traditional airship in recent years, attempting to combine the simplicity of buoyant flight with new technology to create marketable aircraft — so far, with limited success. Now a new French company, Flying Whales, with support from Chinese aviation conglomerate AVIC, is working on a design that will be able to carry up to 60 tons of cargo. The 500-foot-long airship will load and unload without landing, using slings, a feature that will make it possible to harvest wood from deep forests without roads, the company says. The aircraft will be powered by hybrid distributed electric propulsion and may be capable of remotely piloted flight. The first flight is expected in 2021.
Sebastien Bougon, founder and CEO, told the Sydney Morning Herald, "We have a solid base. The wood market alone justifies our investments, and we've got low-risk prospects beyond." Flying Whales already has raised more than $300 million in capital, according to the Herald. Besides AVIC, investors include Bpifrance, which has invested 25 million euros; France’s national forestry office; and the Nouvelle Aquitaine region in the southwest of the country. Other recent airship projects include the Airlander, in England, and a mystery project reportedly underway in Silicon Valley.