Hybrid Aircraft Could Bring Quicker Relief To Disaster Zones

The ESTOLAS design uses anything from helium to skis to get relief where it is needed most.

estolas, aircraft, disaster, relief, aid, typhoon, climate, global warming, design, In the wake of typhoon Haiyan it has become apparent that the effects of massive storms can render moot any amount of disaster preparedness.

Beyond the destruction that occurs during the height of a storm, critical infrastructure is often made inaccessible just when it is needed most. To help address this problem, a multinational team of researchers and designers are developing a new aircraft concept that could deliver much needed aid regardless of infrastructure conditions.

Named the Extremely Short Take Off and Landing On Any Surface (ESTOLAS) project, the new aircraft design combines the best attributes of planes, helicopters, blimps and hovercrafts to create a quick disaster response vehicle. 

Built with extensive amounts of composite material, the featherweight craft will be capable of taking off and landing on extremely short runways. In addition to having a lightweight body, the ESTOLAS can also be filled with helium, lending it greater ability to take to the skies in disaster affected areas.

Rather than limiting the ESTOLAS to paved landing surfaces the craft has also been constructed with skis and a hovercraft-like inflatable skirt that will let the craft land on any surface whether it be a grassy field or open ocean.

According to Alexander Gamaleyev, ESTOLAS’ project coordinator, the largest incarnation of the team’s craft would be capable of carrying some 440 tons of cargo to a disaster stricken area, and be able to land with only 175m (574ft) of open space.

While initial models of the aircraft show a vehicle powered by two fan blade engines, no mention has been made about the power plants that would drive these propellers and lift the craft when fully loaded. That being said, the ESTOLAS project has just moved out of its conceptual phase and designers are only just proving the craft’s airworthiness in wind tunnel simulations.

Once complete, a RC-controlled model of the plane will be test flown to further prove the craft’s abilities.  If all goes according to plan, by April 2014 the ESTOLAS project may be looking for venture capital or industrial partners to bring the vehicle to life.

Given its abilities and the likelihood of more frequent and powerful storms, the ESTOLAS may have arrived just in the nick of time.

Images and Video Courtesy of ESTOLAS