Medicine-laden Solar Ship to float over Africa, delivering the goods

When it comes to improving the lot of those who live in developing countries, there are no shortage of ideas. This one, the Solar Ship, is a solar-powered blimp that's meant to deliver medicine to rural parts of Africa. Outside of the helium that floats it, the Solar Ship is a fuel-less solution to a big problem.

There are two big questions to answer with a project like this. The more important one is whether its practical. In this case, the Solar Ship is eminently workable. The solar panels and electric engine provide the power to lift and propel the blimp, and the helium inside keeps it afloat. Smartly, the Solar Ship only needs a space about the size of a soccer field to takeoff and land. One can count on the presence of a soccer field in nearly every corner of the continent.

The second question follows the first. Is it cost-effective? That's where things get a bit more complicated for the Solar Ship. The cost of the craft is reasonable enough, $1 million outright, or a $30 thousand a month lease. That compares favorably for the upwards of $5 million cost of a traditional bush plane. While the lack of gasoline is certainly a plus to ongoing costs, the price of helium has skyrocketed lately.

Solar Ship, a Canadian firm, has already secured funding for their first mission, flying a medicine laden blimp to the indigenous populations near the Arctic Rim. For the firm's African mission, they've started an Indiegogo to raise $1 million. The campaign is going less than spectacularly, having raised less than $7000 with only twelve days to go. The firm says that the mission will go forward with private funding if the Indiegogo campaign fails. No, we aren't sure why they'd say that before the crowd-funding campaign is over either.

Via BBC Future

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