The Civil Engineering Projects (CEP) program was established to create “capable, modular, and affordable” designs for “the largest single-use structures and structures of any type” to be used in a wide range of applications, according to the Department of Energy’s Office of Science.
The program is currently led by the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), with funding from the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA).
The CEP is also the largest single project in the DOE’s Advanced Research Capabilities Directorate.
While it’s technically possible to build an inflatable bomb, the idea is to “create a modular structure that will be self-contained,” DARPA spokesperson Jennifer Kowalski said.
The DOE will spend $10 million on the CEP’s first project, called the “Rambo II” inflatable device, which will be developed by a team of researchers at the University of Maryland and Georgia Tech.
“The goal is to design and build a robust and lightweight inflatable structure that can be easily assembled into an infested structure for rapid and safe release,” Kowelski said in an email.
“This inflatable can be deployed and removed from a site with minimal effort.
The Rambo II will be designed to operate on an inflow of fresh air to simulate natural disaster conditions.”
DARPA says the first phase of the Rambo III inflatable project is scheduled to begin in late 2020.
Kowaleski added that the “new generation of inflatable structures” will also be developed to help people deal with the consequences of natural disasters, such as the wildfires that have engulfed parts of the western U.S. The first phase, which began in 2017, is focused on inflatable inflatable vehicles that can float and can be transported in the case of a tornado.
The agency says the vehicles will be “highly mobile, lightweight, self-sufficient, and designed for rapid deployment.”
The first vehicle will be a prototype that was designed to travel in a “flat” configuration, which is similar to how a traditional inflatable vehicle floats, and will be built in three stages, Kowieski said, adding that “these vehicles will have a variety of different materials and features that allow for the design of a variety a new types of inflatables.”
The “low-speed and high-speed” inflatable will have “an inflatable platform that can quickly detach from the vehicle, allowing for quick removal,” she added.
DARPA has plans to use the Rambos to build more inflatable devices, including a “large-scale, modular inflatable system that could be deployed in the event of natural disaster.”
The agency is also developing a “flamethrower” that will “fire an inflatible as a weapon, or provide heat for firefighting purposes,” Kewalski added.
The “carpets that will serve as the structural support for this new inflatable will be of a higher quality and performance” than the current inflatable design, Kowsalski noted.
The Cep is “the most advanced inflatable technology in existence today,” according to DARPA, but it’s still in its infancy.
Kowselski confirmed that the agency plans to spend $30 million on developing and deploying the first “capability-specific” inflarion.
DARP has been working with “industry partners” to design a “high-performance inflatable,” or “capacitive inflatable” that can withstand impacts.
The Army and the Air Force are already working on a prototype of a “capacity-specific inflatable.”
DARP also announced that it will spend about $8 million on a “low pressure inflatable that is an extension of the current low-pressure inflatable [that] can be used as a shelter for troops and equipment during the summer, winter, or during other extreme weather conditions.”
The Army’s first low-cost inflatable, called an inflexible inflatable (ILI), was demonstrated at the Army Air Force Academy’s Air and Space Museum in May.
The ILI is a “floating vehicle that is completely self-propelled, capable of maneuvering, and can provide support to troops and other vehicles during extreme weather events.”
DARIP has also contracted with a “highly skilled, highly trained, and experienced team of infilimators and designers to design, build, test, and deploy inflatable systems that will provide a wide variety of applications and uses,” Kowsieski explained.