• Dr. Timothy X. Merritt

Disasters, Airships, and Insurance - Part 2


View from the main cabin of the Hybrid Airship St. Paul
View from the Main Cabin of the Hybrid Airship St. Paul

A Global Capabilities Demonstration

Disaster management is international in scope by its very nature, and the critical message about hybrid airship capabilities could be communicated dramatically through a demonstration of the technology on a grand scale.


From December 1907 to February 1909, the United States government, under Theodore Roosevelt, resolved to display American naval power to the world by sending a fleet consisting of 16 battleships and various escorts on a tour around the globe making numerous friendly port calls to different countries. Known as “The Great White Fleet,” all of the warships were painted white (the Navy’s peacetime color) and decorated with an American flag and gilded scrollwork painted on their bows. Due to the incredible advances that have already been made in hybrid airship technology, it is feasible to consider the possibility of developing a “Second Great White Fleet” of heavy cargo lifting hybrid aircraft that would be sent on a circumnavigation of the globe, making friendly calls at various countries in order to demonstrate the humanitarian relief capabilities possible with this technology.


Imagine a hot sunny day in a remote corner of almost any developing nation. The wind is calm and ambassadors and dignitaries are sitting underneath a canvas pavilion sipping on cool beverages and quietly discussing relevant issues while they wait for the demonstration to begin. A crowd has gathered around the pavilion to gaze up into the sky where a fleet of sixteen hybrid airships, all painted brilliantly white and radiant in the sunlight are hanging suspended at 2000 feet like so many jewels emblazoned on the clear blue sky.


On a prearranged signal, the demonstration begins when the advance team leaps from the open bay of the flagship and skydives to the ground (using smoke for dramatic effect) to set up the landing zone.


Once the advance team is in place, a second signal causes a massive airdrop of remote-controlled cargo parachutes to be launched from the remaining airships. These palletized bundles carry enormous loads of relief supplies and although they are disgorged from the cargo bays of over a dozen separate airships. This demonstrates a critical “stand-off” capability as the cargo chutes descend and swing into line tracing graceful paths down to a single, well-organized drop zone. Once all the cargo chutes have landed, ground crews comprised of hundreds of pre-selected and trained local nationals advance on the newly arrived cargo and begin unloading the humanitarian relief equipment and supplied and, following the directions of the advance team, begin constructing an entire settlement suitable for housing refugees of a natural disaster; a settlement that would include security gates, water and sewer treatment system and a hospital. Meanwhile, other airships would take turns landing and unloading additional heavy vehicles and equipment necessary for the rapid construction of a humanitarian settlement.


As work on the settlement begins, the flagship would slowly descend to the landing zone. Once firmly on the ground, the cargo bay would open and a half-dozen land rovers emerge and drive across the plain to the pavilion where the dignitaries are waiting to be brought aboard for a tour the massive vessel. With the dignitaries aboard, the hybrid airship would go aloft once again and over the next few hours, they could enjoy a sumptuous meal as the watched the establishment of the humanitarian relief settlement below from the comfort of the observation deck. In a spectacular demonstration of disaster relief capabilities, the entire settlement would be constructed in a single day.


Assuming that the leaders of this country were suitably impressed, they would then be asked this question: Would your country consider purchasing insurance that would provide this type of essential logistical capacity during disasters? What if multiple nations pooled their funds to promote hybrid airship development with the promise that those airships would arrive to support them during catastrophic events?


Continue to Disasters, Airships and Insurance - Part 3

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