Flying Towards Humanitarian Relief

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flyingcar_1In Back to the Future II, Marty McFly visits the year 2015 and sees flying cars. Today, the general public isn’t able to get into cars and fly to work, but aid workers attempting to access remote locations may soon be able to do so. A new innovative technology has been developed by a French company, Vaylon that may soon change the face of aid delivery.

Vaylon’s model, named Pégase, is expected to be ready to sell on the global market sometime during the next year (2015), and will retail for $100,000. Another American model, the Maverick (designed the non-profit Indigenous Peoples’ Technology and Education Center), is already on sale for roughly the same price. Both models have the potential to fuel humanitarian work, as they would help gain access to remote and isolated communities that have traditionally been difficult to reach. Road transportation across the Global South is often hindered by poor infrastructure, conflict, and damage from natural disasters.

Both of these models fly using a simple parachute design, which allows the car to glide through the air, though they don’t have wing-like attachments like flying cars often seen in science fiction movies. The Pégase can carry two people at a time with an extra 300 kilograms of supplies. It can travel up to 200 kilometers per trip before needing to refuel, and flies at an altitude of three to five kilometers. Only 100 meters of land is needed for a safe takeoff, and the car can use a strip of paved ground, dirt or grass. In the air they travel between 50-80 km per hour (35-50 mph), and while driving on land, they reach up to 105 km per hour (65 mph).

Jérémy Foiche, one of the co-founders of Vaylon, has explained that the Pégase was designed for three uses: military, humanitarian relief, and leisure and exploration. A new vehicle with innovate technology was needed in order to adapt to different, and often difficult, environments.

flyingcar_2Designs have been developed specifically for humanitarian relief that include removing the second passenger seat and replacing it with various devices to help boost relief efforts. Some ideas proposed include equipping the cars with stretchers to transport patients who require medical attention, or installing a small fridge to deliver vaccinations, which can often be difficult to transport in hot and humid climates.

However, the devices have received some criticism. Many people believe that the idea is too far-fetched to be taken seriously by NGOs. It should be noted, though, that just a few years ago the idea of using drones was criticized, but they are now being used in a number of areas.

Arguments have been made that the distance the flying cars can travel is too short to be considered valuable. The low height has also been questioned because the cars could be easily shot down or hijacked by rebel groups in conflict zones. This would be dangerous as both supplies and people’s lives could be lost.

While considering developments of both the Pégase and the Maverick, perhaps it should be asked whether safety implications outweigh the potential to help access remote and isolated communities.

For more information on the Maverick, visit their website.  More information on Vaylon is here.

 

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Elizabeth DiCesare

Elizabeth DiCesare

Elizabeth is a writer currently based in Kitchener-Waterloo.

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