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Exel Composites to provide structure for world's largest airship
Wednesday, 8 May 2024
The frame of this airship, one of the largest ever developed, must distribute the structure’s entire load. Flying Whales is to develop thin wall carbon fibre tubes that meet all technical requirements and specs.

Exel Composites is collaborating with French airship manufacturer and operator Flying Whales to develop thin wall carbon fibre tubes for an airship. The airship will deliver up to sixty tons of cargo to remote and difficult to reach locations globally. This will also cut emissions compared to land and air transportation. Exel will provide R&D support during the airship's rigid structure prototyping phase, developing and manufacturing the estimated 80km of carbon fibre tubing needed to make this concept a reality.

Flying Whales is the designer of the LCA60T, a 200m-long VTOL airship that uses helium lifting technology to lift its weight and cargo capacity. The airship will function like an airborne crane, carrying the cargo and transporting it to the customer, reducing the reliance on air and land transport and unlocking bottlenecks at shipping ports.

The airship could be used to transport trees when transporting lumber, wind turbine blades to utility stations and, most surprisingly, an entire portable hospital, aiming to bring universal healthcare to some of the world's most remote areas.

"With this airship being one of the largest ever developed, the frame needs to be able to distribute the structure's entire load," explains Guillaume Klein, business development manager at Exel Composites. "We are working closely with Flying Whales to develop a unique tube that meets the technical requirements and specifications needed to make this project viable. Most aerospace standards don't cover airships yet, instead focusing on planes and helicopters."

"We needed both a supplier of pull-wound carbon fibre tubes and an R&D partner with an understanding of aerospace standards and applications to help bring our vision to life. Exel provided us with both," adds Flying Whales CEO Vincent Guibout.

Exel was selected due to the huge volume supply of tubes needed for the airship, and the producer's unique capabilities.

"Each airship requires 80km of pull-wound carbon fibre tubes," continues Klein. "Pull-winding is ideal for these applications as it allows extra reinforcements to be added to the tubes compared to other techniques. Furthermore, being a continuous manufacturing process, it allows us to produce the large volumes of tubes needed for this project while maintaining quality, stability and uniformity."

Contact details from our directory:
Flying Whales Airframer
Exel Composites Carbon-reinforced Composites, Research/Consulting Services
Related aircraft programs:
Flying Whale LCA60T
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