Decoding Design

DARPA: designing high-flying delivery schemes for disaster aid

DARPA: designing high-flying delivery schemes for disaster aid

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The military research agency wants to make delivering disaster aid more efficient and less reliant on military ships and personnel.

Re-purposing shipping containers for homes or offices has been hot for a while. But what about re-purposing the ways that shipping containers are "shipped?"

The U.S. military's design minds in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) are devising ways that standard 20- and 40-foot containers might be creatively deployed to natural or man-made disaster areas.

DARPA is collaborating with defense contractor Raytheon, for instance, on a concept that would use robotic, propeller-driven parafoils (think of the chutes paragliders use) to "deliver up to 3000 pounds of packages to shore and ship in order to avoid potentially dangerous helicopter or aircraft landings," reports Co.Exist.

The vision of the research program, called Tactically Expandable Maritime Platform (TEMP), is to "enable humanitarian assistance and disaster relief over broad coastal areas without dependence on local infrastructure, using unmodified commercial containerships, thus freeing military ships to carry out other military missions," says DARPA.

Aside from the robotic paragliders,  the DARPA program has three other elements. One are complete disaster response units, complete with power, water systems and other "life-support requirements" built into container ships.

The agency is also developing inflated conveyors, called Captive Air Amphibious Transporters (CAAT), that would allow the shipping containers to move over water and directly onto shore. Lastly it is developing what sounds like massive robot tentacles -- OK, cranes -- that would pick up and deposit containers from a ship, while it is at sea, to another "sea-delivery vehicle." The secret sauce here is motion stabilization that would allow the heavy loads to be moved while at sea.

Via: Co.Exist, DARPA

Image: DARPA

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Mary Catherine O'Connor

Contributing Writer

Mary Catherine O'Connor has written for Outside, Fast Company, Wired.com, Smithsonian.com, Entrepreneur, Earth2Tech.com, Earth Island Journal and The Magazine. She is based in San Francisco. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure