“Planecopter” plan to boost disaster infrastructure


Recent catastrophes, such as the devastating typhoon Haiyan, have made apparent the need for advances in critical disaster relief infrastructure. To address the problem of accessibility during natural disasters, a multinational group of designers and researchers have teamed up to develop a new aircraft that could bring aid to stricken areas in all manner of conditions.

The Extremely Short Take Off and Landing On Any Surface (ESTOLAS) scheme proposes an aircraft design incorporating aeroplane, helicopter, hovercraft and blimp characteristics. Built with large amounts of composite materials, this extremely light quick disaster response craft could make use of unprecedentedly short runways. Additionally, ESTOLAS’s featherweight body can be filled with helium, opening up yet further avenues manoeuvrability.

estolas 1

ESTOLAS even includes skis and an inflatable skirt reminiscent of a hovercraft, which will allow the craft to traverse practically any surface. Alexander Gamaleyev, the project’s head coordinator, states that the largest model of the craft could carry a potential 440-ton cargo to disaster-hit areas, and be able to come to rest in an area of just 175 metres of open space.

Prototypes show two fan blade engines providing the craft’s chief propulsion, but with no mention of the power units to drive these engines. ESTOLAS has however recently moved out of the concept phase and is currently being tested for airworthiness in wind tunnels and other simulations.

After this testing, a remotely controlled model of the craft will be put through a series of test flights. ESTOLAS has floated April 2014 as a date for the involvement of industrial and venture capital partners to take the project to the next stage.

Below you can find a brief video illustrating the craft’s design in 3d.

Richard Greenan