Solar Ship: Developing New Modes of Transportation

In 1983, Jay Godsall attended a diplomatic lunch for African landlocked countries. At the time, he was trying to enlarge his lawn mowing business to different regions of Canada. After having a long conversation with a diplomat from Burundi, he learned that central Africa was the harshest place in the world for transportation to thrive, since there were minimal roads. Jay noted that Canada was also a harsh place for transportation; and because of this they had some of the most advanced remote area logistics entrepreneurs in the world. Just like that, Jay decided to switch from cutting lawns, to solving the transportation dilemma in central Africa, northern Canada, and western China.

In 2006, Jay founded Solar Ship Inc., an aircraft delivery service that provides cargo to remote, disaster relief areas. The lack of connection in these areas is mainly due to nonexistent roads, making it nearly impossible to transport and receive goods. Another problem of central Africa is that it does not have a lot of airports; so even if planes did carry cargo, it would take more time for people to go and pick up their goods. Fortunately, Solar Ship does not require a runway to land its planes, just as long as there is open space.

These hybrid model airplanes have buoyant gases in the wings, propelling the plane off the ground, while using solar electric power to stabilize its flight. The bush planes could be powered by using traditional combustion, but the goal of these aircrafts is to cultivate a new mode of transportation that does not depend on fossil fuels or runways.

There are three types of bush planes that Solar Ship has constructed, each having its own purpose and abilities: the Caracal, the Wolverine, and the Nanuq. The Caracal provides cargo service, focusing mainly on central Africa, linking the region to global supplies. The aircraft is 20 meters wide, has a minimum payload of at least 441 pounds, and has to travel at least 124 miles. The aircraft can land and take off directly from soccer fields, making it much easier for civilians to access their cargo. The Caracal is the smallest of the three bush planes and services mainly critical/emergency cargo for the people around Burundi.

The Wolverine provides cargo service for communities with no transportation system; however, it differs from the Caracal slightly. It is more than twice as big as the Caracal, as it is 50 meters wide. It also has a payload of at least 11,023 pounds, and must travel at least 310 miles. The Wolverine can be described as an Air Truck as it’s meant for short hauling distances, but has a large carrying capacity and can take off and land on pavement, dirt, grass, mud or even water. It will be servicing cargo that is globally linked to hubs, and targeting central Africa, northern Canada, and western China.

The Nanuq is the biggest aircraft Solar Ship offers with the width stretching out to be 100 meters, it has a payload of at least 66,139 pounds and has to fly at least 1,243 miles. Although it is not fully developed yet, the Nanuq will provide a large cargo service for remote areas in Canada, Africa, China, as well as Australia and other parts of Asia, linking remote regions in these countries to each other.

Now you might be asking yourselves, what does SOLIDWORKS have to do with Solar Ship? If you asked Lead Industrial Designer, Andrew Leinonen, he would tell you everything. “We use SOLIDWORKS for everything,” Leinonen says. “I use it every day, and really I can’t imagine what other tools I would use if I had to replace it.” Since Solar Ship is a fast-paced working environment, they want to arrive to solutions quickly. SOLIDWORKS Simulation allows the company’s designers to move from a form-fit function model, to the actual strength analysis of the aircraft. Knowing the aircraft’s strength analysis allows the designers to go back and forth to make changes to the model, until it simulates perfectly. “It feels like we’re cheating,” claims Mechanical Designer, Jason Beeksma.

Leinonen also stated that one of the company’s biggest concerns was the placement of the propeller in the aircraft, as it needs to be accommodated to the fuselage. With SOLIDWORKS, the designers can easily visualize the placement of the propeller within the aircraft, while working through other variables, such as aerodynamics and ground strike issues. “SOLIDWORKS allows us to build the vehicles that allow the lifesavers to save more lives,” says Solar Ship’s CEO and founder Jay Godsall.

Solar Ship has taken new heights in implementing these three different types of aircrafts as a shipping service for cargo. Check out the video below to see how Solar Ship is using SOLIDWORKS to make peoples’ lives in poorer, remote countries easier by facilitating access to necessary goods.

Connor Burke

Brand and User Advocacy Intern at Solidworks Corporation
I am a Brand and User Advocacy Intern for SOLIDWORKS Corporation. I currently reside in Westford, Massachusetts and also attend Syracuse University. I aspire to receive my Communication & Rhetorical Studies degree by May of 2019.