A major Canadian biotech company have chosen a Quebec SME to develop a very particular UAV project that will literally be a breathe of fresh air to some: a vertical take-off electric plane designed specifically to carry lungs for transplantation.
Inspired by the flying taxis put forward by the giant Uber, the unmanned aircraft is slated to be built with lightweight carbon fiber, equipped with 12 engines and is intended to have a range of 460 kilometers.
“This aircraft would take off and land like a helicopter, but fly like an airplane. This type of device currently exists only in the military world [tiltrotor], but not in electric version,” said Mikaël Cardinal, president of of the Quebec SME Zénith Altitude, told the Journal of Montreal.
Mikaël Cardinal founded Zénith Altitude in January 2017. He is also a lecturer in engineering at the University of Sherbrooke.
Martine Rothblatt, co-founder of Sirius Radio and CEO of United Therapeutics, contacted Cardinal last year to ask him to participate in the development of the new genre aircraft.
Ms. Rothblatt holds a pilot’s license and in 2016 was instrumental in the very first flight of a full-size electric helicopter.
A subsidiary of United Therapeutics, Lung Biotechnology, promises to invest “tens of millions of dollars”, or even up to $100 million, to enable Zénith Altitude to lead the development of the device, in Quebec.
Lung Biotechnology is working on a technology that would allow humans to transplant lungs from pigs. Using the unmanned electric aircraft, they want to transport the lungs from the center where they would be collected to North Carolina to hospitals in the eastern United States.
United Therapeutics , a company located in Magog, have just submitted through a Quebec subsidiary, Unither Bioelectronique, purchase offers totaling $ 3.1 million for land bordering the Roland-Désourdy airport in Bromont.
It is there that they planned to erect the factory where the future aircraft of Zénith Altitude would be built.
While the construction is still a few years away – 2021, in fact – “It confirms the seriousness of the project,” said Mikaël Cardinal.
Cardinal believes they can possibly make a first flight with a prototype in 18 months, at Alma Airport, where the UAS Center of Excellence is located. “I personally did tests there with platforms of 6000 pounds and more,” the young entrepreneur told the journal.
“One of the biggest risks of the project is certification,” he adds, pointing out, however, that government authorities are increasingly open to innovative aircraft thanks to Uber’s infatuation with its flying taxis. .
Currently specializing in helicopter modification, Zenith is seriously considering focusing exclusively on the electric aircraft project. The company plans to increase its workforce from 9 to 18 people, but recruitment is a challenge.
“People with the right expertise are not easy to find,” says Cardinal. Those interested in a career with Zenith can visit their website for more information.