I’ve spent hours today looking through videos of some fantastic designs. It started with someone reminding me of Big Dog, but soon ended up about transport. (Oh, turn down the volume on that video because some of the lyrics are dreadful. :-(( )
This is part of the conversation about the Sustainable Village Development Network which is getting off the ground at the moment. You know all those hashtags about locavore, organic and handmade? You know those movements like sustainable design, Occupy and Transition Towns? It’s taking those to the next stage using technology that’s already available.
Naturally distribution and transport are part of a network of sustainably designed, environmentally friendly villages and towns. Years ago I’d seen a documentary on some sort of plane that flew at very low altitude, so it could carry much more stuff using much less fuel. Searching around and asking friends, I was referred to the Ekranoplan. It’s the first Russian ground effect vehicle.
These are massive military craft developed and built after WW2. The big one here was nicknamed the Caspian Sea Monster by US intelligence who used to see them in photographs. It can carry twice as much cargo as an ordinary plane using half as much fuel. Great idea.
Here’s a video of a couple of models, demonstrating how the ground effect works.
This is the Alexseiev A 90 Orlyonok. It can also fly at some altitude and is smaller than the so called Caspian Monster.
After the end of the cold war the technology has transformed and is being more widely used. Here is it in a very different form. A French prototype of a one or two person transport called a WIG or Wind In Ground effect. This is twenty years old.
Korea has built this magnificent craft that can fly at up to 200kph with a range of 800 kilometres. It carries five people on 25 litres of fuel per hour. Transports like this are a fantastic idea around South East Asia for all the island hopping.
At this point I was thinking of the new Airbus e-fan that’s being built, using electric engines, carrying two people. How would this look as a solar craft? Solar Impulse and SolarFlight Sunseeker are both working on this, having flown prototypes.
Might it be easier to fly a design that is already demonstrated to require less energy for greater lift?
Well, it turns out the Japanese, as usual, are one step ahead of us. They’re working on a solar powered WIG train.
The prototype was tested in 2001. Currently they’re trialling a system that transports six passengers at 350 kph. By 2020 the aim is to have a full blown train, carrying up to 325 people at 500kph. It’s designed to incorporate solar cells and wind turbines in the rail system so it’s a power plant as well as public transport.
When the network of sustainable towns and villages is being built, systems like this can carry supplies and later serve as free public transport for those wishing to travel or to distribute goods. Given how flat much of the landscape in Australia is, these things could replace an enormous number of trucks and buses. Maybe even cars? We can 3D print them from hemp bio-plastic and recycled metals, powered by the sun.
Because the housing is 3D printed in hempcrete and other environmentally friendly materials, incorporating all the utilities like solar, wind, water catchment and bio-digesting sewage, the cost of living will be minimal. This means the work overhead will also be minimal and debt will be abolished. This leaves people free to spend their time with their families, engaging in hobbies or playing at anything that interests them. A couple of people in the conversation today suggested metal working, casting in particular. Robots can play a big part and the technology is incorporated in an unobtrusive manner. It’s similar to the Venus Project which uses technology to solve humanity’s problems and live respectfully in the environment. The network is a way of beginning building by side stepping political and paradigmatic issues. Start small, from the bottom up.
Again, all of this is existing technology. None of it is fantasy. As for the new designs the prototypes are tested as shown in the videos above. It’s not US Libertarian or Utopia as there will be plenty of regulation, however, it will be research based regulation. More like Norway than Texas. I’ll be writing more on this in coming weeks.
What we need now is simply a bit more networking to plug more people in to the current movements.
It’s an exciting time.