June 28, 2012
DARPA Develops Disaster Zone Delivery Systems
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com
DARPA announced on Tuesday that it has developed new sea and air delivery systems to help lend support to disaster zones.
DARPA said its Tactically Expandable Maritime Platform (TEMP) program has completed the design of technologies to transform commercial container ships into self-contained floating supply bases during a disaster relief operations.
"During natural or manmade disasters, the U.S. armed forces, with rapidly deployable sealift, airlift, logistics, and medical care capabilities, may be called to supplement lead agencies or organizations providing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief support," DARPA wrote in a statement.
The agency said the TEMP program envisions a container ship anchoring offshore of a disaster area, and the ship´s crew delivering supplies ashore by using DARPA-developed, modular on-board cranes and air- and sea-delivery vehicles.
“To allow military ships and aircraft to focus on unique military missions they alone can fulfill, it makes sense to develop technologies to leverage standard commercial container ships, used around the world daily, as a surge capacity for extended humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations,” Scott Littlefield, DARPA program manager, said.
During the first phase of developing the program, DARPA created four key modular systems, all of which are transportable using standard commercial shipping containers.
DARPA's core support modules are container-sized units that provide electrical power, berthing, water and other life-support requirements to crew aboard the container ship.
Also under the TEMP program, DARPA developed motion-stabilized cranes. These cranes allow transfer of cargo containers at sea from the ship deck over the side and onto a sea-delivery vehicle.
Captive Air Amphibious Transporters (CAAT), the sea-delivery vehicles DARPA developed, have air-filled pontoons on a tank tread-like design, which helps enable them to carry containers over water and directly onto shore.
The fourth system developed by the agency under the program is the parafoil unmanned air-delivery system. This is a low-cost, propeller-driven air vehicle that uses a parachute for lift that can carry supplies from the container ship to a disaster zone.
"While DARPA´s investment in demonstrating the technology has completed, the information obtained should reduce risk for efforts of the military Services or other government organizations with a humanitarian assistance and disaster relief mission," the agency wrote in a press release.