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Our Prototypes column introduces new vehicle concepts and presents visuals from designers who illustrate the ideas. Some of them will be extensions of existing concepts, others will be new, some will be production ready, and others really far-fetched.

The concept

The Shango is an aircraft concept envisioned to ferry 40-foot-long intermodal containers across Africa, the Mediterranean, and other seas where trade routes are interrupted. It would be capable of vertical take-off to access most regions of this vast continent, and would be used to deliver medical supplies and other goods rapidly.

Images provided by Charles Bombardier (

The background

Recently, Mahon Slattery from Terraintegra contacted me. Slattery had seen the Nunavik arctic express concept and suggested developing a new type of hybrid aircraft capable of carrying containers over Africa efficiently. The name Shango comes from African mythology as the god of storm.

How it works

To take off vertically, the Shango would use pivoting ducted fans placed over and in front of the wings. The engine that comes to mind for this job would be the Rim-rotor Rotary Ramjet Engines, developed by three PhD students from the the University of Sherbrooke. The ramjets produce significant thrust and therefore deliver large amounts of rotating power. Please note that I will present these new engines in an upcoming concept.

To reduce the total weight, I would develop a new generation of ultra light containers (ULC) made of ultra-strong composite materials. These intermodal containers would have the same external dimensions and features as existing shipping containers, designed with logistics in mind, so they could be used on ships, trains, and with the Shango.

The ULC would be loaded under the body. The aircraft would back up over the container or the container would be rolled under the aircraft. This way, in the unlikely event of the aircraft needing to shed some weight rapidly, the container could be jettisoned without loss of the craft. The ULC could also be lowered while the craft hovered over hard to land areas. (When the Shango is in VTOL mode).

What it’s used for

The Shango could be used to deploy medical or emergency food supplies in Africa or to ship goods to remote villages where there is no airport, especially if there has been a disaster like an earthquake, volcanic eruption, or severe drought. This concept is still its in an early stage, lots of systems needs to be revised like landing positions, wings etc. It will most probably evolve into a ground effect vehicle with lower wings, revised configuration and a modified body.

Your input is welcome, as always.

The designer

The Shango aircraft concept was developed in collaboration with Ashish Thulkar an Industrial Designer from Bengaluru, India. He graduated with a master’s degree in design from the Indian Institute of Science in 2014 and currently works as a freelance vehicle designer.

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