Canada's first cargo airship is being prevented from getting off the ground by red tape and a lack of helium, according to the people behind the project.
The Manitoba-built airship — dubbed Giizhigo-Misameg, which means "Sky Whale" in the Oji-Cree language — was announced in December as a way to deliver cargo to isolated northern communities.
Since then, the airship has not moved from where it sits in St. Andrews, north of Winnipeg.
Regulations for licensing both airships and their pilots "simply don't exist," says Dale George, the pilot and chief technical officer for Buoyant Aircraft Systems.
"So we find ourselves really not having any help from government to … build these regulations," George told CBC News on Wednesday.
Transport Canada says the company should submit an application to change the existing regulations covering lighter air vessels — such as hot air balloons.
But George's partner in the project, Barry Prentice of the University of Manitoba, said the company can't begin to draft the complex regulation changes needed for commercial cargo airships, encompassing everything from aircraft design specifications to pilot training requirements.
"It really isn't up to us to come up with the guidelines," Prentice said. "This is where the government has to come forward and do its own homework to come up with the guidelines."
Prentice added that Transport Canada should seek guidance from other countries such as the United States, which have more experience with airships.
"Canada has a big opportunity to take the best from everybody else's programs," George said.
Another immediate concern is a lack of helium, the gas that would be used to lift the airship. Helium is also in short supply in Edmonton and Saskatchewan.