When disaster strikes, providing shelter for displaced residents or to set up an emergency hospital is often one of the first things needed, and the speed at which that happens is often a matter of life or death. The uLites project, funded by the European Union, provides a fast response in the form of a modular, inflatable shelter that can be expanded to create an airtight structure of almost any size. Whether it becomes an emergency residential shelter, a medical triage center, or storage for disaster relief equipment, the uLites’ smart solar-powered system can be deployed quickly to almost any location.

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Produced by the international engineering and architectural firm Buildair, headquartered in Spain, the uLites shelter comes together as modular inflatable tubes, which can be arranged in a series to create emergency shelters of various sizes depending on their intended use. While many existing inflatable shelters are designed for just a few people, the uLites system can create much larger shelters for housing people and vehicles, an entire medical triage center, or even an airplane hangar. Because each inflatable tube can be erected in as little as 30 minutes, a safe shelter can be created in a short time.

Related: MIT engineers unveil inflatable shelter for camping on the moon

The disaster response shelter is particularly suitable for emergencies where power has been disrupted, as it comes equipped with its own built-in solar power system that provides the electricity needed to keep the shelter inflated and hold its arched shape. The inflatable tubes of the uLites shelter were designed to be as airtight as possible so they would stay inflated longer. The tubes do still require power in order to stay completely inflated, but the team was able to reduce the energy needed, making it possible to maintain the shelter with the energy it generates from the sun.

“By measuring this correctly, we could charge a battery with the energy of these cells,” said Carles Estruch, head of research and development at Buildair. “This battery stores the energy to be used when the pressure of the structure goes below a threshold.”

Via Horizon Magazine

Images via Buildair