• Dr. Timothy X. Merritt

Race for the New Kingdom in the Sky - Part 2

Category of Airships, Hybrid Airships, Airship Technology, and Fiction Airship
St. Paul landing at the Umatilla Aerodrome

Roadmaps and Signposts:

A roadmap for technological development describes the goals for a future environment and provides examples of how those goals can be achieved (Albright, 2003). Forming strategic alliances with disaster relief logistics networks creates a roadmap for hybrid airship development with examples, or “signposts,” from other industries that have attempted this type of approach.

Signpost #1 Emergency Shelters

Hybrid airship developers would not be the first to view disaster relief operations as a platform to test and showcase new technology. In 2016, AbleNook won the Cade Museum award for innovative new technologies for a type of flat-packed prefabricated housing capable of being delivered to remote locations, across diverse terrain and easily assembled without tools using modules that snap together (Golin, 2016). Signpost #1 is the introduction of new technology; this is the current location on the roadmap for hybrid airship development.

Signpost #2 Drones for Humanitarian Relief

The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations (GAVI) is employing a similar strategy for using technology to address emergency issues in developing countries. Working together with the Californian drone manufacturer Zipline, GAVI has pioneered the use of drones in Rwanda for the delivery of vaccines and plasma. Seth Berkley, chief executive of GAVI, says, “You can get blood anywhere in 20-30 minutes. This has been an extraordinary success” (Pilling, 2019). Taking existing technology and using it field conditions involving life and death situations is signpost #2.

Signpost #3 Leapfrogging Infrastructure Development

An example of the scale of disruption and transformation possible with this emerging technology can be found in the ubiquitous global use of cell phones. By the end of 2006, 68 percent of the world's cell phone subscriptions were in developing countries (VOA, 2008). Like cell phones, hybrid airship technology aims to leapfrog traditional forms of infrastructure development. (Nimubona, 2020) notes that "Africa is the world's fastest-growing market, yet it lacks infrastructure – with Solarship (a Canadian hybrid airship), you don't need infrastructure." Developing nations, especially landlocked countries, may choose to invest more heavily in airship technology, rather than traditional forms of infrastructure, once the capabilities have been adequately demonstrated. Scalability is signpost #3.

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