Enabling Humanitarian Aid

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The People (and Technology) Enabling Humanitarian Aid

indago fire rescue

In 2013, more than 22 million people were displaced from their homes due to a natural disaster. And there is no indication that this trend is slowing. Today, natural hazards are responsible for twice as many home displacements as they were in the 1970s, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council. When the dark cloud of these disasters passes, there is an encouraging prospect that comes into focus: technology. Read on to learn how smart—and courageous—people are helping make humanitarian aid more effective through technology.

Technology: Airlifters

humanitarian aid c130 supplies

The C-130 Hercules is regularly sent on missions in the harshest environments and is often seen as the first aircraft “in,” because of the Herc’s ability to land on austere strips or on damaged runways before any other transport to provide humanitarian relief after natural disasters.

Enabling Technology:

The Herc’s unique abilities comes from a combination of the C-130’s turboprop propulsion and the straightforward design of its landing gear. It is also built to support multiple missions thanks to a roll-on/roll-off (RORO) capability that features built-in ramps that allow the cargo to be efficiently rolled-on and off the aircraft. RORO also enables the C-130’s cargo area to be reconfigured anywhere in a matter of hours without major design modifications necessary.

Major Missions:

Nepal Earthquake, April 2015
A C-130J Super Hercules operated by the Indian Air Force was one of the first aircraft to arrive to Nepal with vital resources, including 39 National Disaster Response Force personnel and 3.5 tons of relief material. The aircraft was later joined by a global contingency of Hercs, which delivered food, water and medical/emergency services support. These C-130s also transported people out of the disaster zone.

Behind the Scenes:

Like many Lockheed Martin employees, Tim Nguyen has a special place in his heart for the C-130. For the past 31 years, Nguyen has been a member of the Hercules engineering team in Marietta, Georgia. He currently leads the development of C-130’s defensive systems.

Nguyen’s relationship with the C-130 goes back a little further to 1975, when he was one of 452 people packed into the last Hercules aircraft to leave Saigon as the city fell to North Vietnamese forces. As he sat in the back of a C-130, heading to a new, unknown life, Nguyen made a vow to work for the company who designed the C-130. And, he did just that.

Given his history with the C-130, Tim Nguyen now regards the aircraft as his “good friend” for possibly saving his life and inspiring his career path.

“I feel this is a magnificent machine,” Nguyen said. “And the sound of the engines, the look of the airplane…it will be in my mind forever.”

Technology: Unmanned

k-max fire rescue

While human responders must avoid the most dangerous areas of a fire and take time to rest between missions, unmanned vehicles can fight fires day and night, in all weather, reaching dangerous areas without risking a life.

Enabling Technology:

Autonomous systems like those designed into the K-MAX helicopter can provide lift services by autonomously dipping water—up to 24,000 pounds or more—from a pond and delivering it precisely to the fire location. A twin-rotor design maximizes lift capability, even in highly challenging environments. Electro-optic/infrared (EO/IR) cameras can also locate hot spots and designate the location to an operator. Other technologies on board unmanned vehicles like the Indago quadcopter are EO/IR gimbaled imager and geo-location for real-time response.

Major Missions:

Australia Fire Relief, January 2015
Unmanned technologies like Indago have a proven track record in real-world firefighting. Indago flew over a live fire and provided real-time intelligence, including the location of the fire edge, the intensity and location of hotspots, and identification of people and assets at risk through smoke.

Griffiss International Airport Demo,
November 2014

During the firefighting demonstration, Indago successfully identified hot spots and relayed data to an operator, while the cargo-hauling robo-copter K-MAX autonomously extinguished the blazing flames with water dumped from above.

Behind the Scenes:

Luke Aspinal, manager of special operations for Heliwest

“Once deployed, the Indago gave us the capability of several different systems in one package. We could field a mapping capability with similar coverage of a larger fixed wing system due to the system’s endurance and weather tolerances—without the requirement for large clear areas for launch and recovery. With the simple change of a payload, we could provide a stable high-resolution video and oblique imaging with a vertical takeoff and lift capability all in the one package. The pairing of a true multirole UAS rugged enough to operate in almost all weather operated by an experienced and professional aviation solutions provider was the ideal solution to a challenging environment.”

Technology: Simulation and Training


Across many regions, including throughout the Asia-Pacific, Air Forces are charged with delivering humanitarian aid to those devastated by natural disasters. By incorporating simulation into training and a “family of systems” approach, pilots, aircrews and maintainers can prepare for an ever-increasing set of missions and scenarios more efficiently and effectively.

Enabling Technology:

The ‘family of systems’ approach to training identifies key technologies needed at various stages of training to achieve the maximum learning outcome in the shortest amount of time.

By blending computer-based training, desktop trainers and simulators, students engage across a broad spectrum of technologies networked together for an integrated, immersive experience.

This approach reduces the demand to train on actual aircraft and high-end simulators, which can be expensive, while still providing a realistic environment.

Major Missions:

Royal Australian Air Force
We’re helping the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) add important simulation-based devices between the classroom and the platform—reducing training time and building increased confidence. The RAAF leverages a modern C-130J-30 Virtual Maintenance Trainer and a Multi-Function Training Aid for more immersive training. An electronic classroom standardizes courseware and streamlines training management.

Behind the Scenes:

SQNLDR Brendan Pearce, HQ Air Mobility Group, Royal Australian Air Force

“Our C-130J training Squadron recently implemented a training remediation program for both maintenance and aircrew training. This training remediation has sought to improve upon both the level and efficiency of training by using synthetic training devices. The recent implementation of the Virtual Maintenance Training and Multi Function Training Aide was favourably received by our instructors. The use of these synthetic training devices is a considerable leap forward and provides an effective method of moving training away from on-aircraft or high fidelity simulator use.”

Employees Who Care

Lockheed Martin established the Employee Disaster Relief Fund in 2006 to assist employees affected by disaster. The fund provides affected employees with short-term emergency financial assistance for their immediate needs. Click here to learn more.   

Published October 26, 2015