• Dr. Timothy X. Merritt

Disasters, Airships, and Insurance - Part 1

Black and White Image of the Hybrid Airship St. Paul
Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) image of the St. Paul over the Loring Areodrome

The Problem:

Both natural and human-caused disasters occur every year at locations all across the globe. Whether it is an earthquake in Pakistan, a refugee crisis in Bangladesh, a tsunami in Indonesia, or a pan-continental drought in Africa, catastrophic events occur with a frightening regularity and cause incalculable heart-break and human suffering.

Every year, the nations of the world join in efforts to provide humanitarian relief to areas affected by catastrophic events. In 2018, it is estimated that 128 million people will need humanitarian assistance and protection.[1] Through the employment of civilian and military assets, relief agencies and organizations are in a state of constant mobilization. It a situation aggravated by the fact that two-thirds of the world’s land mass and half of the global population have no access to paved roads, runways, or other forms of infrastructure that would enable a rapid response during emergency situations. Therefore, too often relief that could be provided by humanitarian organizations never makes it to the areas where it is most needed.

From the village of Kuik-e Hasan, in northern Iran, in November of 2017, an official of the Red Crescent Society reported that “10,000 family-size tents had been brought in, but that distributing them had turned into a scrimmage. Iranians without tents or any other form of shelter accused low-level officials and looters of hoarding tents with plans to sell them later for a profit.”[2] As a consequence of the global lack of adequate infrastructure to support developing countries during catastrophes, stories like this are far too common; they can be pulled for any given year at locations all over the world, demonstrating an essential requirement for a solution that allows those who are in a position to help to be able to reach those who are in a situation of need.

Innovative Solution to Infrastructure Crisis Credit: <a

Hybrid airships are an emerging technology with the capability of addressing the lack of global transportation infrastructure. Hybrid airships, which combine conventional lighter-than-air (LTA) aerostatic lift capabilities with more conventional aerodynamic lift capabilities from the heavier-than-air industry, such as Lockheed Martin’s P791[3], or Hybrid Air Vehicle’s (HAV) Airlander[4] aircraft which have the ability to deliver large quantities of relief resources necessary in the immediate aftermath of a disaster.

Unlike blimps, hybrid airships are heavier than air. They still possess enormous lifting bodies filled with helium, but they derive a significant portion of their lift (up to 40%) from their aerodynamic shape, and in combination with powerful vectored thrust engines. While they generally have to taxi a short distance to develop the momentum necessary to develop aerodynamic lift, they employ inflatable landing pods that can skim over the surface of uneven terrain, and in some cases even over water using landing gear technology similar to that of a hovercraft. Therefore, hybrid airships require no airports, roads, towers or other infrastructure and are thus capable of operating in nearly any environment on earth; even the most remote and inaccessible; the exact conditions under which the majority of humanitarian aid requirements are found.

Continue to Disasters, Airships and Insurance - Part 2


[1] Global Humanitarian Overview 2018: https://interactive.unocha.org/publication/globalhumanitarianoverview/

[2] Erdbrink, E. (2017). I am alive: Survivors of Iran Earthquake mourn as government scrambles to help. New York Times, NY. Retrieved online: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/14/world/middleeast/iran-earthquake-survivors.html [3] Lockheed Martin Hybrid Airships https://www.lockheedmartin.com/en-us/products/hybrid-airship.html

[4] Hybrid Air Vehicles Airlander https://www.hybridairvehicles.com/

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