Skeleton Technologies joins Flying Whales program to develop next generation of heavy-lift, large-capacity airships
European ultracapacitor manufacturer Skeleton Technologies will join French firm Flying Whales’ program to build a 60-ton Large Capacity Airship (LCA60T, for the global transport market.
Skeleton Technologies will join the program to help design and build hybrid propulsion for the LCA60T’s electric power systems. Average operational power is expected to be approximately 1.5 MW with the company’s graphene-based ultracapacitors assisting to cover the additional 2 MW peaks for hovering, lifting and stabilisation in reasonable and turbulent environments.
The main advantage of the LCA60T will be its ability to transport heavy and oversized cargo of up to 60 tons either in its 75m-long hold or underslung, at speeds of 100 km/h (62 mph), with a range of several thousand kilometers per day.
The helium-filled, rigid-structure airship will be capable of winching to pick up and unload cargo while hovering, at a fraction of the cost of a heavy-lift helicopter, and for much heavier loads. Without the need to make conventional takeoffs and landings, energy consumption via its hybrid electric propulsion system will be low.
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.
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.—Flying Whales CEO Sébastien Bougon
The program is part of the French Government’s “Nouvelle France Industrielle” plans for future transport, with the country’s forestry agency highlighting the need for LCA60T to extract timber cargo.
Last year Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang and French Prime Minister Manuel Valls oversaw the signing of a cooperation and investment framework agreement between Flying Whales and the China Aviation Industry General Aircraft (AVIC General) company, which is to become a Flying Whales significant shareholder.
Bougon says that other potential applications could improve freight and logistics in remote areas in parts of Africa where business development is hindered by a lack of transport infrastructure, including shipments of humanitarian aid or other urgent supplies. For that purpose Morocco will become the “third parent country” of Flying Whales.
The international shareholding company is leading a consortium of about 30 companies and labs to cover the research and development, engineering, industrialisation and manufacturing phases of the program. Industrial production is expected to start in 2021.
Skeleton Technologies is the only ultracapacitor manufacturer to use a patented nanoporous carbide-derived carbon, or ‘curved graphene’, delivering twice the energy density and five times the power density offered by other manufacturers.