Published On: Tue, Feb 11th, 2014

Angels in the Sky: Hybrid Planes to Bring Disaster Relief in a Compact Package

The recent devastation in the Philippines in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan has highlighted the desperate need for aircraft that can deliver aid and supplies to disaster-hit areas that do not have easy access. Almost 6000 fatalities have been reported since the typhoon hit, and more than 4 million people are now homeless. Relief efforts were severely hampered after damage to the airport and its runways meant that aircraft carrying relief workers, food, water and medicine could not land. To ensure this does not become an issue in future rescue efforts, a hybrid aircraft has been designed as part of the EU Commissions Extremely Short Take Off and Landing on Any Surface (ESTOLAS) project that could enable rescue crews to access areas where there is no runway or open space available to land an aircraft.

Estolas aircraft


The hybrid ESTOLAS aircraft may look odd, but its strange shape equips it with the unique ability to take off and land on almost any surface including water, snow, grass and mud. Engineers working on the project have developed four different sized planes that can carry loads starting from 3.3 tons all the way up to 440 tons. The smallest model can take-off and land at distances of just 75m, whereas the largest model would need a minimum distance of 175m.

The ESTOLAS plane also uses far less fuel than commercial aircraft making it a greener option as well as being much more effective as a relief aircraft.

What Difference Will This Make To Relief Efforts?

Access has always been a huge problem for relief crews who often struggle to reach survivors in areas that have been devastated by floods or storms. The ESTOLAS plane’s ability to carry heavy loads means it will be able to take more volunteers and relief crews into disaster areas, bringing much needed help and assistance. Another factor that often hampers relief efforts is the amount of money available to pay for food and medicine. The ESTOLAS plane can carry more supplies on-board resulting in fewer trips back and forth to the affected area, and its fuel-efficient nature means that charities can spend more money on helping the people affected by the disaster rather than on transportation costs.

The ESTOLAS craft can be used for many other purposes besides disaster relief. Its ability to land and take-off in small spaces makes it an ideal form of travel between small urban cities that do not have the available space to build traditional airport runways. Its ability to handle any terrain will make it an attractive option to national defence organisations that would be able to use it for scouting or rescue missions in hostile territories. It could also be used to transport workers and materials to offshore oil and gas rigs that can currently only be accessed by ship or helicopter. Researchers plan to shortly begin testing of the ESTOLAS craft in a wind tube followed by radio-control test flights by April 2014.

Guest Author: Laura Brown

Laura Brown is studying her final year in aeronautical engineering. She is a technology enthusiast and she enjoys sharing her research online.

Laura Brown

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