An airborne alternative

A LONGTIME champion of airships is urging the province to get on board with the mode of transportation so it can become a future method of delivering goods to remote communities. For years, Barry Prentice, a member of the University of Manitoba’s Transport Institute, has been touting cargo airships as a carbon-neutral option — they’re powered by hydrogen — to transport items to First Nations in northern Manitoba during the wintertime. Prentice built a prototype, but in 2016, a storm destroyed his one-of-a kind research hangar. Now, his team is rebuilding. They are currently working on gas cells that fill airship structures so they can fly. Investment into the industry is required for serious takeoff, he said. “The government has to take the leadership on this because they’re the ones who control the sky. They can’t just be AWOL and expect things are going to fix themselves,” Prentice said, adding he’s among those concerned about how climate change will affect future winter road seasons. Prentice believes airships will be flown as cargo vehicles in other parts of the world within a couple of years. In a statement, a provincial spokesperson said the government “remains open” to learning about new transport technologies to make northern supply chains more efficient. The spokesperson added the government would be pleased to discuss the option further “on the basis of there being robust, near-market-ready business and feasibility plans, with proof-of-concept demonstrations established.” — Maggie Macintosh Courtesy Winnipeg Free Press, Edition 12/18/2019