- Lockheed Martin's hybrid airship operator Straightline Aviation recently announced it had received its first order for 7 airships, Fortune reported last week.
- Quest Rare Minerals intends to lease the airships for at least a decade, said Fortune. The company will be employing the airships to transport mining equipment to remote areas of northern Quebec in its search for rare earth minerals.
- The hybrid airships are ideal for unexplored or roadless areas. Though slow-moving, they can transport 20 tons of cargo at once and land safely on almost any flat surface, including snow, water and sand.
Lockheed Martin's entry into the commercial transport space was originally met by skepticism. The military aircraft maker's suggestion that a remote-area transporter would take flight commercially by meeting unmet demands was challenged by the fact that few people buy where few people live. Further, 20 tons is hardly a significant amount of cargo.
But the recent order by Quest Rare Minerals shows the innovative transporter could be employed during the first step of the supply chain, wherein raw materials must travel from source to manufacturer or a storage facility.
Ultimately, the employment of a hybrid airship may be the most effective way to travel to outlying locales which still lack access to goods already available nearly everywhere else. In addition to the potential gains in new opportunities by extractors, the use of such ships could also derive savings by avoiding the infrastructure necessary for traditional air cargo carriers.
The innovation may have use at the other end of the supply chain, too. Already, drones are being used by governments and nonprofits to transport medical equipment to remote areas in Rwanda.