The small and medium sized enterprises (SME) behind the industrial program “LCA60T”, better known as Flying Whales, have secured €122 million in a third round of funding. Investors are the existing shareholders, the French government, the state of Monaco, Canada’s provincial government of Québec, the Air Liquide's venture capital fund Aliad, and the ADP Group.
With these financial grants from public and private shareholders, “we were able to raise our equity capital to €160 million,” CEO Sébastien Bougon of Flying Whales, sums up. The funding suffices to start the two-year development of a hybrid airship on behalf of French oil company, Total, announced Mr. Bougon. Dubbed the “Manta”, it will be smaller than the Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV) “Airlander”, first presented in 2007 by British airship pioneer, Roger Munk, and Lockheed’s LMH-1, displayed at the Paris Air Show in 2015.
(Almost) ready to go
“Flying Whales’ aeronautical program and its industrial implementation are well underway. The development activities for the future airline and airport company will be mature enough in 2023 to be spun off into a subsidiary, and thus accelerate both our already promising commercial activities and the implementation of the resources necessary for future operations," stated CEO Bougon following the latest cash injection.
According to construction plans, Flying Whales will be able to accommodate up to 60 tons of heavy or bulky loads in hover flights. They would fill a transportation gap for outsized cargo resulting from western states-imposed sanctions on Russian carriers, including Volga-Dnepr operated AN-124 freighters, following Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
Demand for 50 units anticipated
According to the French manufacturer consortium, the focus is on two areas of application for which the Flying Whales offer the best flight and transport conditions: humanitarian aid and disaster relief. Another business option is to carry supplies and survey equipment too heavy for drones.
The ambition, now, is to start manufacturing the first aerial vehicle in 2024, once a plant near Bordeaux has been set up. In the longer term and depending on market demand, two additional production sites are planned – near Montreal in Quebec, and Jingmen in China. In the medium term, the consortium anticipates demand for 50 air ships. Finally, ecological aspects also speak in favor of the construction and use of Flying Whales and similar air ship projects: They produce a fraction of the pollution emitted by conventional aircraft.
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