Competition Growing in Hybrid Airship Class

Competition Growing in Hybrid Airship Class
Image courtesy of Solar Ship, Inc.

Competition Growing in Hybrid Airship Class: You may recall a blog we posted that explored the new class of aircraft developed by Lockheed Martin – the Hybrid Airship. It turns out that there’s another contender vying for market share in this class, a Canadian manufacturer called Solar Ship.

Lockheed Martin, the most established in the airship space, has an eager competitor for its Hybrid Airship: the Solar Ship. Though it is hardly like comparing apples to apples, each brings advantages to the table. Solar Ship also happens to be a global leader in developing solar-powered vehicles.

Both airships can deliver cargo, disaster relief, mining services, and more to extremely remote reaches of the world; both are considered environmentally friendly and ecologically sound in concept and design. Each is remarkable examples of aviation technology.

Noteworthy Differences

Solar Ship’s airships are dubbed air trucking platforms. They are not unlike the Lockheed Martin Hybrid Airship; both achieve static lift from buoyant helium gas. The Wolverine, by Solar Ship also uses a wing for aerodynamic lift. A big difference is that the Wolverine is solar powered, with the entire top of the craft covered with solar panels that power an electric engine.
On the other hand, the Hybrid Airship uses helium gas for lift as well but has aerodynamic lift from the airfoil shape of the envelope. It uses fossil fuel to power its engine although it’s emissions are roughly one-third that of normal aircraft. It also runs very efficiently.
The Solar Ship long-haul version, the Nanuq has a minimum payload capacity of 66,140 pounds (30,000 kilograms) and has a minimum range of 311 miles (2,000 kilometers). The Hybrid Airship can carry 20 tons of cargo and can fly up to 1,616 miles (2,600 kilometers), but remember, this requires up to 10,000 pounds of fuel.

Common Aspirations and Goals

Both Lockheed Martin and Solar Ship see their aircraft as incredible assets for a number of scenarios – Chief among them: delivering critical supplies and services to underserved and isolated regions of the world. By extension, this often means underprivileged and poverty-stricken areas where hope is a precious commodity.
Solar Ship is focused primarily on serving Africa, China, and Northern Canada. In fact, it has partnered with Manaf Freighters in a humanitarian-inspired project called Peace + Freedom Services. A focus of this partnership is to provide aid to refugee camps in conflict zones, infectious disease outbreaks, and catastrophic natural disasters and loss of life.

Moving Forward

In the future, Solar Ship plans to provide vital intermodal transportation services for the northern-most reaches of Canada where ice roads are the sole means of ground transportation for much of the year. The company has been training local aviators and operators to fly Wolverines in the harshest of Canadian wintery conditions. Critical infrastructure has been built to allow these airships to be hangered, maintained, and repaired locally. The project is slated to launch this year.
Additionally, Solar Ship is planning to combine efforts with Chinese aviation entrepreneurs in western China to move massive amounts of food, medicines, technologies, and goods to vast expanses currently underserved. Once again, the key will be to train local aviators and operators who have the local knowledge and wherewithal to create a disruptive and thriving aviation community in these remote regions of the country.

Solar Ship’s Home Base

The Brantford Municipal Airport is home to this Canadian company and is a valued partner for the facility. A recently completed master plan for the airport that included land use and infrastructure requirements will allocate much-needed space for Solar Ship to expand its research and development capabilities.

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