Support from Quebec government for R&D and manufacturing plant to serve the North American market follows European investment of €90m to build 60-tonne payload craft to enter service in 2021-2022.
Flying Whales, a French firm developing a 60-tonne payload cargo airship dedicated to the heavylift and outsize cargo market, has attracted investment of €20 million from the government of Quebec.
The partnership makes provision for the setting up a local subsidiary in the French-speaking Canadian province next year to carry out research and development (R&D) work and in the longer term for the construction of a manufacturing plant for the hybrid craft. Flying Whales’ Quebec unit would also have exclusive rights on the North American market.
“The location of Flying Whales (in Quebec) will strengthen our position in aerospace and transport on a worldwide scale,” said the government minister for the Economy and Innovation, Pierre Fitzgibbon.
A 2013 report commissioned by Canada’s House of Commons transportation committee highlighted that airships could play a new role in Canada, especially when it comes to reaching remote communities in the north of the country. “Hybrid air vehicles may one day provide a superior solution, as they can travel over snowfall, frozen water or impenetrable terrain, and require no roads or rail installations to operate,” the report said.
Earlier this year, Flying Whales signed a draft agreement with the engineering unit of the Aéroports de Paris (ADP) that focuses on a long-term partnership to set up operating bases for the craft both in France and worldwide.
Flying Whales’ business plan focuses on the production of a 140-150 metre craft, code-named Large Capacity Airship (LCA) 60T, that it does not need to land to pick up or deliver loads.
In an interview with French newspaper Sud-Ouest, Flying Whales’ president, Sébastien Bougon, revealed that the company had chosen the Bordeaux region as the location of its first manufacturing plant, which will serve the European market. Representing an investment of €90 million, it is scheduled to enter service in 2021-2022 and have a production workload of up to a dozen airships annually.
Flying Whales has also received funding from French state bank bpifrance and the Conseil Régional de Nouvelle-Aquitaine, a regional government authority.