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Started in phase 1, the AquArEL (AvioniQue pour Aéronef ÉLectrique) project is a collaboration between Thales Canada and FLYING WHALES QUEBEC in the development of an airship for the transport of heavy loads: the LCA60T (Large Capacity Airship 60 Tons). This airship will be able to carry, load and unload goods weighing up to 60 tons of hovering flight while minimizing the environmental footprint. In the first phase of the project, the partners worked on the specification of systems, modules, and test benches. With the help of Quebec SMEs, the first version of the software and electric flight control prototypes were developed. In the second phase of the project, developments are continuing to achieve the first flight of the airship in 2024, in collaboration with MTLS, a Quebec SME.   

Development of Modules and Functions  

In phase 2 of the project, FLYING WHALES will develop the system specifications and work on modelling LCA60T’s payload transfer control, ballast management and general balancing systems. Thales will analyze and validate the flight control system solutions developed during phase 1 to optimize the compact Flight Control (cFC) modules for the flight test phase. Thales will also complete the development of its test benches. Software functions, such as fault detection and maintenance services, will also be developed to ensure the aircraft’s development.   

Continuous Improvement of the Avionics Suite  

Thales will also continue to develop the avionics suite to improve its architecture. With the help of MTLS, FLYING WHALES and Thales will look for ways to replace physical controllers with touch screen interactions while ensuring the same level of integrity and availability. This architecture will be analyzed and validated on a physical bench in an environment with equipment and data from other real systems before being certified. 


Phase 3  

The third phase of the project, from 2024 to 2026, will allow the verification and validation in flight of the new systems developed by the two companies. Once these performances and validation developments are completed, the LCA60T airship will be ready to be put into service. These new technologies will enable Thales and FLYING WHALES to position themselves in the new airship and unmanned aerial vehicle markets while reducing the environmental footprint of commercial aviation.  

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