Manitoba-made airship unveiled in Winnipeg

80-foot “Sky Whale” blimp to study cargo transport to Northern Canada.

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by Design Engineering Staff

Manitoba’s first locally-built airship was christened at the the University of Manitoba engineering school yesterday. Built by Buoyant Aircraft Systems International (BASI) and non-profit research institute, ISO Polar, the 80-foot blimp was development to study airship technology for its suitability for transport to challenging Northern Canada locations.

“Since 2001, I have been researching the potential to use a modern generation of transport airships as a means to deal with the logistical challenges of northern Canada,” said Barry Prentice, president and CEO of BASI. “Because the lift is free, airships do not consume much fuel and the economic competitiveness of airships is growing.”

Prentice, professor of supply chain management at the I.H. Asper School of Business and the former director of the Transport Institute at the University of Manitoba, explained that difficult living conditions of the remote communities can be directly related to the high cost of transportation. Food prices in Island Lake, Manitoba, for example, are two to three times higher than those in Winnipeg.

Capable of reaching 10,000 feet and an air speed of 45 mph, the airship was christened Giizhigo-Misameg (“Sky Whale” in the Oji-Cree language). The fins, gondola and envelope of the airship were constructed at Red River College this past summer and then moved to the University of Manitoba to complete the final seam of the envelope, the fins, nose cone and landing gear.

Following final assembly inside the EITC Atrium at the University of Manitoba, the airship (designated the MB80), will be taken to the BASI hangar at St. Andrews Airport just outside Winnipeg to begin flight tests.

To best determine if the airship is feasible as a northern workhorse, BASI will undertake a research program on cold weather operations, ballast exchange, robotic flight, electrical propulsion and fuel cells.
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