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China looks to dirigibles for cleaner cargo, cheaper transportation

CHINA is partnering up with French company Flying Whales to develop airships to carry cargo to remote areas at much reduced costs

China looks to dirigibles for cleaner cargo, cheaper transportation

CHINA is partnering up with French company Flying Whales to develop airships to carry cargo to remote areas at much reduced costs

25 March 2019 - 19:00

CHINA is partnering up with French company Flying Whales to develop airships to carry cargo to remote areas at much reduced costs.

According to China Daily, air freight traffic in China is growing much faster than the rest of the world. Chinese air cargo volume rose by eight per cent year on year, while global air freight grew by only two per cent, reported US-based Clean Technica.



This does, however, present challenges. Rural areas and smaller cities still have trouble accepting large cargo planes, leaving the freight to large diesel trucks. Despite improving air cargo volumes, 80 per cent of the country's cargo still moves by truck. Even going directly from origin to destination, it can be hard to move large items to the country's most rural areas on roads built for cars and trucks.



There's also the environmental impact. Air travel is fast and convenient but contributes to carbon dioxide emissions. Trucks, moving large loads, aren't much better.



All of these reasons are likely to have prompted China Aviation Industry General Aircraft Co (AVIC) to partner with French firm Flying Whales on an innovative cargo airship.



Under normal weather conditions, the airship needs 1.5 megawatts to resist winds and move safely, but extreme winds while loading or unloading can require three megawatts of power in short bursts.



Rather than include less-efficient internal combustion engines capable of generating that full three MW load, they worked with an ultracapacitor company to provide power for those short bursts so the airship can use much smaller engines. Overall, this allows the airships to travel across China and beyond using much less fuel than other modes of transport.



The biggest advantage is flexibility. Instead of congesting roads with oversize loads or breaking down large items for air transport, the airships will be able to take items directly from the origin or port to the destination. Loads can be up to 60 tons, so everything from wind turbine blades to modular housing can be delivered straight to the final destination.


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