As part of the Extremely Short Take Off and Landing on Any Surface (Estolas) project, the European Commission is in the process of designing a hybrid aircraft featuring aspects of a plane, helicopter, hovercraft and airship to allow for an extremely short take-off and landing on all surfaces.
A major problem with disaster stricken areas is that infrastructure, including runways, become damaged and often unusable, presenting a challenge for first responders providing aid. With the novel concept of the Estolas project, personnel will be able to get into disaster stricken areas quickly and efficiently and victims can be evacuated.
The hybrid Estolas aircraft features a short, squat design with propeller engines fixed at the rear of the disc-shaped main body, which houses a rotor similar to that of a helicopter’s. It is wing-shaped to provide extra lift while in motion. Inside the aircraft is a jacking system with a cargo cabin at its centre. On the edges of this aircraft is a pilot-passenger cabin, cantilevered wings, and a tail.
In addition, this aircraft is lightweight, built with an extensive amount of composite material, with the ability to be filled with helium to decrease its weight, therefore increasing the aircraft’s lifting power.
Thanks to its air cushioned skirt and wheel skis, the aircraft can take off and land at significantly lower speeds than typical planes, and can use non-conventional runways on any natural surface, including water or snow; in fact, it can land within 175m of open space.
Currently, the hybrid Estolas aircraft is being developed in four different sizes: small, medium, heavy and super heavy. According to Alexander Gamaleyev, the project co-ordinator, the largest aircraft would be capable of carrying up to 440 tons. This is approximately two times greater than the typical conventional jet or propeller planes. With this aircraft, first responders would easily be able to enter a disaster stricken area with as much equipment as needed and rescue those in need.
All photos courtesy Estolas