Meet Steve Saint. His dad, an Evangelical Christian missionary, was killed by an Ecuadorian tribe called the Waorani. Then Steve wound up living with that same tribe (cool fact: he was baptized by two of the people who killed his father, who had since converted to Christianity). Then he designed this so tribes such as the Waorani would be able to get medical attention. He serves the “Humanitarian Missions Market,” as he puts it. Watch:
“Okay, now take a guess. Zero to sixty — how long?”
The Maverick’s website has another great video on the front page. Imagine this loaded up with sidebags of medical supplies, or terrain-surveying equipment. The practical applications are really something else, considering what it’s capable of. Unlike an ultralight, which is a lot more fragile and needs pretty level, probably paved terrain, this is equipped to get around where there is no pavement, and is clearly built to be rugged.
Conversely, the current price is $84,000 — much more expensive than something like an ultralight. In the above video, Saint briefly mentions his plans of selling these in more developed areas like America to get production up. Because that means the price will go down, and he can then start selling them to humanitarian organizations as affordable means of transport.
American law classifies this as a powered-parachute-slash-sports-aircraft; you need both certifications to fly it. Both are relatively easy to get — though sports aircraft licenses cost about $3500 including training. Because of that hefty initial price tag, and somewhat expensive training, they probably won’t see a lot of action in America. Then again, consider using this to monitor grazing cattle, dust crops, or simply explore your neighborhood from above. If you’ve got the money.
But that’s because America has a wonderful highway system. Aircraft aren’t necessary in most of America. I myself am from Alaska, where roads are not as plentiful, and some towns are significantly easier (and safer) to navigate to by plane. Planes are common in Alaska, where the need is greater. Where the need is greater, such as a place like Ecuador, this will fit in perfectly.
Now consider what sort of thought went into this design:
- Cost. This is always a big one, for obvious reasons. Though there was no way around an initial high cost of production, Saint thought about that and made a plan for driving the cost down before trying to sell it to its intended market.
- Utility. The utility always has to outweigh the cost for a product to be bought. That’s a pretty standard principle of economics. The cost is high right now, but already there are places where the utility far outweighs that: places with sparse or dangerous roads, and so on. Under this goes…
- Efficiency. If being used to save a life, it’s got to go fast; it goes zero to sixty in less than four seconds on the road, and can fly. So that’s covered. Fuel efficiency is also important, in the name of saving money — but also in the name of having fewer fuel stops, which allows for a direct path to one’s destination.
- Durability. This is a bit of a specialized need for the Maverick. Durability is not a big deal in America, where a lot of products have a planned obsolescence because consumers are willing to simply buy a replacement — but in Africa where money is sparse, and so are places to buy things like the Maverick, buying a replacement is a waste of money and is completely out of the question. The Maverick has good suspension, a solid design, and is built to last. I don’t know for a fact, but one could assume that it was also built in a fairly modular way, so replacing a damaged part would be simple and cheap. Things that are successful in Africa typically can be jury-rigged if need-be, as well.
Saint is the kind of guy Engineers should look up to. Not because he built a nuclear-powered hovercraft that can fly at Mach-11 and shoot lasers. Because like Pranav Mistry with his sixth sense device, this guy is trying to use technology to help everyone.