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Aid in a box: Transforming cargo carriers into rescue ships

From handing out over 1.5 million meals to getting more than 500 power generators at critical locations in the past two weeks along the East Coast, the U.S. military provided key aid to individuals and communities in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

And the military’s rescue-in-a-box project will make it all easier and faster in the future.

TEMP -- the Tactically Expandable Maritime Platform -- takes your standard cargo ship and transforms it into a state of the art rescue ship using everything-you-could-need-for-a-disaster in-a-box solutions.

'Ordinary cargo ships are outfitted with paragliding drones, robotic cranes and unmanned tanks that roll on the sea.'

But to be fair, it’s a really big box -- a standard 20- or 40-foot long commercial shipping container.

When poor emergency planning led to severe fuel shortages, the military still managed to deliver more than 1.8 million gallons of gas to FEMA distribution points. Use of TEMP in the future could reduce dependence on local infrastructure during similar crises: Any commercial shipper could convey the containers, freeing so military ships for more traditional missions.

Meet Next-Gen Emergency Support
Deployable in under a day, TEMP can sustain mission operations for more than 30 days.

After a disaster, emergency response teams could load and scramble an ordinary ship in under 24 hours with TEMP’s in a box solutions that have been pre-stationed at ports around the world.

Once loaded with TEMP, ordinary cargo ships are transformed into mobile high-tech humanitarian aid bases outfitted with paragliding drones, robotic cranes and unmanned tanks that roll on the sea.

This tech means ships can stay two to five miles off the shore of the emergency zone, yet still send in necessary support by either air or sea. The defense research division DARPA awarded Raytheon a development contract for the technology in Jan. 2011.

Currently, there are four key components to TEMP: mission management, motion stabilized crane, sea delivery vehicle and an air delivery system.

Core Support
As part of the TEMP system, Raytheon has created a series of mission management modules, each of which fits in a standard shipping container.

A humanitarian mission requires more management and oversight than the standard cargo ship is going to offer; this element of temp offers mission planning, communications and air and sea asset control, as well as aid tracking deliveries.

The box solution will also provide the electrical power and water needed by the humanitarian mission team aboard the container ship, which can grow to as many as 100 team members.

Robotic Aid Heavy-lifters
Especially with limited port access, transferring aid cargo could be very difficult for standard commercial ships on a humanitarian operation.

Raytheon and Advanced Technology Research therefore developed a motion stabilized crane that can transfer cargo containers from the ship deck while the ship is still at sea onto an amphibious delivery vehicle.

Cranes in a box are are easily transported and can be disassembled and kept in standard ISO containers as well.

Tanks on Water
So what happens after a robot crane gets its cargo over the railing of a ship at sea?

Captive Air Amphibious Transporters (CAAT) take over, bringing help to the shore.

CAAT has a tread-like surface on air-filled pontoons and can transport about one million pounds of aid over the water.

In testing, it had no problem overcoming debris in the water, seamlessly moving from water to shore and mastering a marsh -- even though it weighed more than four tons.

Drone Aid Deliverers
What if water transport is not an option? To accept aircraft, ships generally need a helicopter pad or landing strips -- not something you’re ordinarily going to get on a container ship.

TEMP has a solution for this as well. Parafoil is an unmanned low-cost powered paraglider that uses a parachute for lift.

The ParaFoil Air Delivery System, developed in partnership with Atair Aerospace and Logos Technologies, was successfully tested in March this year.

Able to take off in less than 100 feet and carry 3,000 pounds, it can travel up to 75 miles without refueling.

With several of these drones, 125,000 pounds of aid per day could be delivered directly to those in need on shore.

Capable of precision cargo placements, Parafoil’s video system can recognize a safe, clear landing zone. It can also be used to relay communications and to provide aid workers with critical geographic information and imagery for up to 48 hours.

DARPA has completed phase one of TEMP and after successful smaller model testing, the Raytheon says it is now moving forward building full-scale versions of both Parafoils and the drone crane.  

Hopefully, TEMP will arrive in time for the next emergency.

Ballet dancer turned defense specialist Allison Barrie has traveled around the world covering the military, terrorism, weapons advancements and life on the front line. You can reach her at wargames@foxnews.com or follow her on Twitter @Allison_Barrie.

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