How Flying Whales’ flying cargo ships want to conquer the world

The French company hopes to make waves at dubai world expo, which opens on October 1. The start-up
Flying whales will present, under the French flag, its project for the largest cargo airship in the world.

To build its “flying whales”, Flying Whales chose the Laruscade site, north of Bordeaux (Gironde), where it will set up its very first factory. An extraordinary factory, to accommodate a disproportionate project. On a total surface of 250 hectares, the production activity will be installed in a building 250 meters long, for 60 meters high ceiling. Construction of the building should start “by the end of the year, or very early 2022,” announces Michèle Renaud, Marketing Director at Flying Whales.

“We hope to release our first airship in 2023, for an inaugural flight in 2024,” continues the marketing director. Then we will have a test phase of eighteen months, because there is a lot of certification work for this new flying machine, which brings us to 2026 for the first operations. »But what can this juggernaut of the air, 200 meters long and 50 meters in diameter, be used for? “Our first mission will be logging with the NFB [Office nationale des forêts], historical partner and shareholder of the company, probably in the Alps, or the Pyrenees. And quickly we should be operating in wind power for blade transport, because it is a rapidly developing sector, and in the installation and removal of high voltage pylons. “

Go where other flying machines can hardly go

The ambition of the LCA60T, code name of this flying freighter, is above all to go where other machines can hardly go. The original idea of ​​Flying Whales, a company born from the meeting of an engineer, Sébastien Bougon, and the president of the ONF, was indeed to collect logs in sites that are difficult to access, typically in the mountains.

“We are going to offer an airship capable of loading and unloading while hovering, which will allow us to free ourselves from infrastructure constraints,” explains Michèle Renaud. This should allow us to consider other applications, to operate in the event of a natural disaster, or during oil spills to spray dispersants. “

The “flying whale” will be able to carry up to sixty tons in a hold located under the airship with a dimension of 96 meters long, 7 meters wide and 7 meters high. The missions will be set for distances of 1,000 km, “but there will be possibilities for mission extension. “And if the machine will not go very quickly (100 km / h at top speed),” our costs will be particularly interesting, of the order of 15 to 20 times cheaper than a helicopter for example. “

152 devices by 2032

Regarding the economic model, Flying Whales plans to either sell airships, in particular to certain countries, or to invoice missions by the day. “Ultimately, we are targeting a market estimated to be between 700 and 800 devices. For the moment, our objective is fixed on 152 aircraft by 2032, manufactured in three factories, that of Laruscade, then another in Quebec and one in China. “

The company also intends to “participate in the decarbonisation of transport. “” The interest of the airship is to use a carrier gas, helium, which makes it possible to extract oneself from gravity without fossil fuels “, insists Michèle Renaud. And if the first generation of airship will be equipped with hybrid propulsion (with fossil fuel generating electricity to power electric motors) “we are already working on solutions with hydrogen fuel cells for the following generations. “

Public and private funding

For materials, the structure will be in carbon fiber, and the envelope will be made up of several layers to allow “mechanical resistance, UV resistance and a water repellent side. “

Funding for this program is both public and private. The Nouvelle-Aquitaine region is notably a shareholder, along with the Quebec government, as are groups such as Air Liquide and Bouygues construction. The cost of the project is around 400 million euros to develop the first device. “We are at half of the financing, and we will seek our third fundraising for an amount of approximately 100 million euros. The company also hopes to catch other (big) fish via Dubai.

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