The continuing quest for energy-efficient, sustainable transportation systems as well as improved surveillance capability has created a new wave of interest in airships. American defence conglomerates like Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman have prototyped airships such as the High Altitude Long Endurance- Demonstrator (HALE-D) and the Long-Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle (LEMV). Now, Solar Ship, a Canadian company has developed a heavier-than-air hybrid airship.
The Solar Ship hybrid airship will be filled with helium. However, the lift required to make the craft air-borne will be derived on its aerodynamic wing shape. Also, should there be a loss of helium, the craft can still fly and land safely using air.
The top surface of the Solar Ship hybrid craft is covered with solar cells that can provide the required energy for the electric motor and other on-board needs. Of course, that is not the only energy source, and there are enough batteries on-board.
Such heavier-than-air airships are said to be more structurally robust, stable and resistant to weather and wind conditions. They are also more practical for use in the remote locations for which they are designed, as you don’t need extra ballast or mooring infrastructure to keep them from floating away midway through unloading operations.
Solar Ship offers 3 variants, each of which has specific potential uses. The smallest is the Caracal, which can carry up to 750 Kg for a distance of 2500 Km with a maximum speed of 120 km/hour. It is targeted at intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) operations. The next larger variant, the Chui, can carry 2500 Kg for distances of 5000 Km at speeds of up to 100 Km/hour.
This is meant for ISR as well as carrying cargo. The Nanuq is mainly for cargo operations. It can carry up to 30 tonnes for distances of 6000 Km at speeds of up to 120 km/hour.