Earlier this week Canada-based hybrid airship manufacturer Solar Ship challenged US aerospace, defence and security technologies company Lockheed Martin to undertake an intercontinental friendly air race to raise international awareness about hybrid aircraft and renewable-energy technologies in the aviation sector.
As part of the air race, Solar Ship will be using its short-haul midsize solar-powered Wolverine aircraft, while Lockheed Martin will field its large Hybrid Airship. Both aircraft were designed and developed to address the need for air support (mainly cargo-carrying) in hard-to-reach, isolated locations, such as remote regions in Africa, that do not have adequate road access and lack airfields to land conventional fixed-wing aircraft.
According to Solar Ship, the purpose of the air race challenge is to promote the benefits of hybrid aircraft, which use two forms of lift: buoyancy similar to that of an airship, and dynamic-lift similar to that of a fixed-wing airplane.
Lockheed Martin is currently a significant role-player in the airship industry, while Solar Ship is a notable innovator in developing solar-powered vehicles in the aerospace sector. Both companies have been raising awareness about the benefits of connecting remote regions, such as in north Canada and Africa.
The air race challenge will demonstrate how both hybrid aircraft design and renewable energy can play a part in overcoming the barriers of moving cargo to and from remote areas.
Solar Ship’s proposed challenge comprises two legs, the first being a 3 500 km flight from Johannesburg, South Africa, to Kampala, Uganda, along what is being called the Peace & Freedom Route. Flying of this specific route is aimed at promoting long-term peace in the Great Lakes Region of Africa – hailed as one of the most expensive transport routes in the world.
The second leg comprises a flight of 22 000 km, from Lockheed Martin’s training facility in Palmdale, California, in the US, to the Arctic and south, across Africa.