The smooth, white underbelly of the airborne whale sails across the sky, casting a shadow across the forest below.
Other than its enormous size, though, this “whale” has very little to do with its animal namesake. It’s an airship, and French aeronautics company Flying Whales hopes its hybrid-electric, helium-lift vessel will change the shape of sustainable transport.
The airship could help solve the problem of how to transport cargo “when infrastructure is lacking, or just doesn’t exist at all,” says Romain Schlack, Flying Whales’ head of communications. “We are going to add new possibilities to global logistics, while overcoming obstacles and problems on the ground.”
Airship technology has been around for over 150 years and gained popularity in the early 1900s ferrying passengers and cargo across land and ocean.
But as airplanes became faster and more advanced, airships couldn’t keep up. Then, in 1937, an airship called the Hindenburg burst into flames, killing 36 people, firmly marking the end of the golden age of airships.
Now, nearly 90 years later, interest in the lighter-than-air transport is reviving. With low carbon emissions, and no requirement for expensive ground infrastructure like airports or roads, because they can load and unload cargo while hovering, airships could be a sustainable solution for logistics across the globe.