French “Sky Yacht” Takes Flight


image: Olivier Gouix

Calling it a yacht may be a stretch, but French designer Stephane Rousson says it fits his aircraft, which is intended purely for pleasure and adventure flying. The system employs a small helium-filled blimp connected by a cable to a small hydrofoil in the water, creating a sort of airborne sailing craft that Rousson says can travel at two to three times the speed of the wind. “The seaglider (the part in the water) is working like the keel and hull of a boat,” he told AVweb in an email. “The cable is working as the mast, and the balloon as a sail.” The pilot rides along in a small carriage suspended beneath the blimp. Rousson said he hopes to sail the aircraft to the French island of Corsica, a distance of about 100 miles across the Mediterranean, if he can find a sponsor to fund the adventure.

Another lighter-than-air project, the Solar Ship, based in Toronto, is flight-testing an aircraft that uses a wing-shaped envelope filled with helium and covered with solar cells, aiming to create a fuel-free cargo-delivery vehicle. The aircraft can take off from a small open field, and the developers say it will be price-competitive for cargo flights to remote sites in northern Canada. Rousson, who has been experimenting with pedal-powered and solar-powered blimps since 2007, said he plans to continue flight-testing the sea-glider system and will try to expand its flight capabilities.