Reuters Edge

Boeing, SkyHook team up to launch heavy-lift blimp

TORONTO (Reuters) - After years of hovering high above sports stadiums to provide aerial shots to TV audiences, blimps may soon take on a new role in carrying heavy cargo to remote regions like northern Canada’s oil sands.

Chicago-based Boeing Co BA.N said on Tuesday it has teamed with a privately owned Canadian company to build a blimp it says will be able to carry a 40 ton load 200 miles without refueling.

Boeing said the blimp would be environmentally friendly because it would eliminate the need to build roads or rail lines to remote locations, where transportation can be costly, inadequate and unreliable.

The JHL-40, or Jess Heavy Lifter, is named after Pete Jess, president and chief operating officer of SkyHook International, the Calgary, Alberta-based company that secured the patent for the blimp, which combines elements of a helicopter and a traditional airship.

“Companies have suggested this new technology will enable them to modify their current operational strategy and begin working much sooner on projects that were thought to be 15 to 20 years away,” Jess said in a statement.

Boeing said the blimp, which would be able to carry more than double the capacity of the biggest helicopter, uses lighter-than-air helium to lift itself off the ground while fuel would be dedicated to powering the craft’s four rotors, used solely to move the load.

This compares with helicopters, which require plenty of fuel just to lift themselves off the ground.

Boeing said the aircraft will hit the market as soon as it gets certification from Transport Canada and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration.

Reporting by Frank Pingue; editing by Rob Wilson