Logistics company Manaf Freighters has ordered four hybrid aircraft from Canadian company Solar Ship for operations in Africa.
The CA$20 million agreement, announced late last month, is for two Caracal and two Wolverine aircraft. The two Wolverine aircraft can carry a 20-foot shipping container with a minimum payload of 5 tonnes.
The purchase is part of Solar Ship and Manaf’s joint venture, Peace & Freedom Services. The venture connects people in the Great Lakes Africa region with global logistics and provides critical cargo: food, clothing, medical supplies, and basic necessities. Part of Manaf’s investment in the joint venture includes two DC-3 aircraft that offer long range service to connect South Africa with disconnected areas in East and Central Africa.
“I would like to thank Solar Ship for all their efforts in developing this unique flying technology. It will have great impact in Africa. I must also thank their Canadian government supporters, SDTC [Sustainable Development Technology Canada] and the BCIP [Build in Canada Innovation Program] for making Peace & Freedom Services a reality,” said Manaf CEO, Fred Nimubona. “Without their support, we would not have been able to see the multiple demonstrations of Solar Ship technology. The need for Peace & Freedom Services is immediate in our region. Many lives are being lost and our joint venture promises to improve the quality of life in regions that have, up until now, been inaccessible or diminished by war.”
Solar Ship’s Director of Africa Operations, Michel Rugema, said, “We have been working with Manaf since 2014 to establish their requirements and to develop the right aircraft for their needs. The goal of our platform is to access areas where there is no infrastructure so we can help people in their daily lives and unleash their economic potential. Both sides of the partnership know the Great Lakes region of Africa well. Manaf has vast experience and an established network— Solar Ship is ready to start deploying with them in Africa in 2017.”
Solar Ship’s hybrid aircraft use both static lift, generated by buoyant gas, and aerodynamic lift from the wing, allowing for very short takeoff and landing capabilities. The 20 metre wide Caracal has a payload of at least 200 kg and range of more than 200 km while the larger 50 metre Wolverine has a minimum 5 000 kg payload and is able to carry a 20 foot shipping container. Range is more than 500 km. A much large 100 metre wide aircraft, Nanuq, capable of hauling 30 tonnes, is on the drawing board.
Solar Ship was founded in 2006 with the goal of building an aircraft that can operate in areas with little to no infrastructure. Its aircraft can be powered by combustion engines or electric motors, with solar cells mounted on the hybrid wing. Solar Ship plans to launch operations in China next year.