A turtle shaped airship is perhaps the last thing you might expect to see floating through the sky, but this eco-friendly craft might just be key to the next generation of humanitarian relief.
Powered by solar panels during the day and bio-diesel at night, the airship is an intriguing concept. It cruises at speeds comparable to some airplanes and can take off and land straight up and down like a helicopter. It can even to take on water ballast and act like a boat, enabling it to land just about anywhere - deserts, mountain lakes, swamps or the middle of the ocean - and the first prototype will make its maiden flight in 2009.
The plan is to use the airships to carry humanitarian relief to disaster victims around the world, where they can function as flying hospitals complete with emergency surgery rooms and medical equipment. The craft can also carry large amounts of supplies such as food, water purification systems and medicine, as well as doctors, nurses and search and rescue personnel. There's more in the press release about the company's investment plans ($200 million by 2012) and expected initial public offering ($3 billion in 2015), including dashed plans for deployment by the US Department of Defense as military transport.
Image by Flickr user teamdarfur
And even though it might look like something out of Star Wars, if it works I don't think the people of impoverished regions all over the world will be complaining too much.