Solar Ship has received an order for four of its cargo-carrying airships from Africa-based Manaf Freighters, for use in freight transport and disaster relief.
The order consists of two short take-off and landing Caracals plus two of the larger Wolverines, which will be deployed to east and central Africa in 2017.
The acquisition will contribute to the two companies’ Peace & Freedom Services joint venture, which provides logistics and cargo transport aid to the Great Lakes area of Africa.
Under the JV, Manaf provides two Douglas DC-3 aircraft to connect east and central Africa with the south of the continent; this will now be bolstered by the airships.
“The need for Peace & Freedom Services is immediate in our region,” Fred Nimubona, chief executive of Manaf, says. “Many lives are being lost and our joint venture promises to improve the quality of life in regions that have, up until now, been inaccessible or diminished by war.”
Michel Rugema, Solar Ship’s director of Africa operations, says: “The goal of our platform is to access areas where there is no infrastructure so we can help people in their daily lives and unleash their economic potential.
“Both sides of the partnership know the Great Lakes region of Africa well. Manaf has vast experience and an established network. Solar Ship is ready to start deploying with them in Africa in 2017.”
Canadian company Solar Ship has researched a number of markets for its airships, including military applications, and the Royal Canadian Air Force assisted with tests of the technology. In Canada, the aim is to use the Wolverine to provide connections to the often inaccessible Northwest Territories.
Work began in 2006, and four sizes of airship are in development - the 11m (36ft) SolarShip, 20m Caracal, 50m Wolverine and 100m Nanuq.
Operations in China are also planned, with the intention of connecting the industrialised east of the country with remote western regions. Solar Ship is working with local partners to launch operations in 2017.