Skeleton Technologies, a specialist in ultracapacitors, is joining French firm Flying Whales’ programme to build a 60-ton Large Capacity Airship, designated LCA60T, for the global transport market.
The partnership is intended to ensure that graphene ultracapacitor technology powers the next generation of large, heavy-lift airships for industrial applications in China and France.
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 100km/h, 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.
Skeleton Technologies will join the programme to help design and build hybrid propulsion for the LCA60T’s electric power systems. Average operational power is expected to be approximately 1.5MW with the company’s graphene-based ultracapacitors assisting to cover the additional 2MW peaks for hovering, lifting and stabilisation in reasonable and turbulent environments.
The programme 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.
Flying Whales CEO Sébastien 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.
Industrial production is expected to start in 2021.