Chui (pronounced choo-ee) is the Swahili word for the leopard, respected for its combination of speed, agility, stealth, and strength. The Chui is Solar Ship’s equivalent of the pick-up truck, a vehicle synonymous with utility.
“Airships are older than radios, older than automobiles,” claims Godsall, Founder of Solar Ship, the Toronto-based company now building the unique aircraft, “but no one has quite had the mission to do something like this with one.”
The solar ship is a hybrid aircraft – part bush plane, part airship – powered by solar panels, lifted by helium, and designed to access some of world’s most hard-to-reach places, where roads don’t exist and planes can’t land.
Solar panels – spread across the topside of the aircraft – power an electric motor, which then turns a propeller and provides the thrust necessary for taking off, flying and landing. The aircraft is suspended by a giant helium-filled balloon, which generates lift statically (exactly like a blimp.) The buoyancy from the helium also helps counterbalance the weight of the solar panels and batteries.
The real secret to the solar ship, however, is its ability to land just about anywhere. Unlike an airplane or airship, it is capable of taking off and landing in an area the size of a soccer field- one piece of infrastructure found virtually everywhere in Africa.
Here’s the video: