The first airship built in Western Canada was unveiled to the public at the University of Manitoba on Monday afternoon.
"They say it takes a village to raise a child. It takes a great city to build an airship," said Dr. Barry Prentice, a professor at the Asper School of Business who has long promoted airships as a method of transporting heavy goods to rural communities that can’t be reached by road.
The 80-foot-long airship was given the Oji-Cree name Giizhigo-Misameg, which translates to the Sky Whale. It was built by Buoyant Aircraft Systems International and ISO Polar.
The helium-inflated craft unveiled yesterday is not the freight carrier that will take large volumes of freight to remote communities. It’s a research airship that will be used to design the bigger freight carrier.
"We have work to do to make transport airships robust enough to fly-year round in Canadian weather," said Prentice. "We also need to perfect cargo-ballast exchange systems, docking and other activities that are no so easy at 35 below."
Prentice also said that the next step will be to build a 140-foot freight carrier.
"How can we not provide an improvement in the capabilities that is within our reach now? We have a made-in-Manitoa solution to a problem that people thought could not be solved."
Dale George, an airship pilot, will be conducting the test flight protocols on the airship in the new year.
The research is being conducted at an airship hangar at St. Andrews Airport. There is a memorandum of understand to partner with Red River College and the University of Manitoba to create airships that have a polar rating suitable for northern operations.