Shipping containers have emerged as a popular material for building everything from backyard retreats to temporary shelters and coffee shops. Now DARPA has harnessed the giant metal boxes for use in defense and disaster relief. The Tactically Expandable Maritime Platform (TEMP) links the 20-40 ft containers together like giant LEGO bricks to form floating platforms and bridges.

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A team of engineers at the GRASP lab at the University of Pennsylvania helped DARPA develop TEMP in order to create floating platforms that don’t rely on already existing infrastructure for military and disaster relief operations. Core support modules deliver electricity to the structures as well as berthing, water, and life support systems for the crew aboard the container ship. Modular on-board cranes allow the transfer of cargo from the ship deck over the side to delivery vehicles known as Captive Air Amphibious Transporters (CAAT). These vessels have the capability to quickly carry supplies to shore. A parafoil unmanned air delivery system also works with the container ships .

A UPenn video featuring scaled-down TEMP modules demonstrates how the system will take advantage of GPS to easily assemble a floating platform. The tension of the connections can be adjusted depending on the shape of the platform, wave height, and weight of the containers. High tension would let vehicles drive along the surface, while low tension would allow for the structure to remain intact while weathering turbulent waters.

Via Make