Flying Whales in UAE: Innovative airship may be spotted in Dubai skies soon

With a 96-metre long cargo bay, the 200-metre long, 50-metre diameter airship will be able to load and unload heavy loads in hovering flight

by

Waheed Abbas

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Named LCA60T, the airship will be operated by Flying Whales Services. Photo: Supplied
Named LCA60T, the airship will be operated by Flying Whales Services. Photo: Supplied

Published: Mon 11 Dec 2023, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Mon 11 Dec 2023, 8:46 PM

Flying Whales, a French firm specialising in rigid airship technology for heavy-load transport, plans to set up a manufacturing facility in the UAE. This move will generate approximately 1,000 employment opportunities in collaboration with its partners.

Boasting zero-emission as it is entirely electric, the Whales will be certified by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA). It operates like a helicopter and can carry heavy loads, such as mobile hospitals, to remote locations.

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"We would like to have a final assembly line in Abu Dhabi to produce airships for all the regions from East Africa to the Middle East to India. We have started the discussion, and if we set up a facility here, production will start in 2027, creating 300 direct jobs. Since other consortium companies will also come to the UAE to produce parts, in total, we will create around 1,000 jobs," said Sébastien Bougon, chairman and CEO of Flying Whales.

Since the airship was designed as a whale, it has been named after the sea mammal and is able to carry wind blades, high voltage towers, industrial parts, hospitals, etc. Scroll down for the video

The airship, which can fly a few hundred to a few thousand kilometres, is not for sale and will be operated by Flying Whales Services. Named LCA60T, 200-metre long, 50-metre in diameter and with a 96-metre-long cargo bay, it will be able, for the first time in history, to load and unload up to 60 tonnes of heavy or bulky loads in hovering flight.

There will be no footprint on the ground because it doesn't need to land to load and unload.

The company aims to have four final assembly lines across the globe: Quebec (Canada), Nouvelle Aquitaine (France), Abu Dhabi (UAE), and the State of Victoria (Australia). Each facility will cater for the entire region. Supported by a consortium of 50 leading aeronautic partners, including Honeywell, Thales, Safran, AWS and others, the company will have a Flying Whales Industry and Flying Whales Services unit in each of the four places.

In terms of costs, Bougon revealed that this new model of transport is 20 times less expensive than helicopters and planes and slightly more than trucks. "We have no impact at the ground when we load and unload."

The company is currently taking part in the COP28 at Expo City Dubai, representing French innovation in the field of decarbonising transport.

Serving 30 markets from the UAE

Bougon said they're working hand-in-hand with these regulatory authorities in the US and Europe, hence, the airship will be as safe as any plane that is operational globally.

Flying Whales will serve 30 bases from the UAE, deploying airships to all these destinations. Globally, it will have 160 airbases and create one airship for each airbase.

"Emirates is a strong partner of France and is in the middle. We need to go to India and there are a lot of opportunities in the east of Africa. So we will produce the airship for this region in Emirates and deploy all around the region, increasing the influence of Emirates in all this region because Emirates will manage all these transportation means in India, in Africa, and Turkey," Bougon told Khaleej Times during COP28.

"If we establish a facility here in the Emirates, it means there will be an agreement between Emirates, France, Canada and Australia and we will never have another factory in any other neighbouring Gulf countries or India. The production and operations are exclusively from the Emirates.

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